Palm Sunday, Year A
- They shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son (Zech. 12:10)
This week, all people, including all those who are simply passing by the way, are invited to come, look and see whether there is any suffering like Jesus’ suffering (see antiphon 1 of the evening prayer psalmody for Good Friday in the Liturgy of the Hours; cf. response 9 at matins for Good Friday in the old Liber Usualis; cf. Lam. 1:12). And many are apparently heeding the invitation, given that this week churches all over the world fill up more than usual.
But the ones who are especially drawn to Jesus, lifted up from the earth, are the poor, I believe. They are the ones who flock in great numbers to churches in the Philippines, my country of origin, and in other underdeveloped predominantly Roman Catholic countries. The poor are the ones who do not fail to show up for Holy Week rites and ritual and processions. The poor make their own, in ways others might find peculiar or even strange, Jesus’ passion and death. And as they fix their thoughts and eyes on Jesus and listen to him intently, it becomes obvious to them that he is them.
Jesus represents them all in their sufferings—hunger, thirst, nakedness, pain, oppression, torture, anguish, misunderstanding, alienation, opposition, abandonment, despair, treachery. And considering Jesus’ endurance, the poor do not grow weary nor lose heart (cf. Heb. 12:2-3).
So, then, Jesus represents them as well in their endurance. Jesus stands for them in their practice of true religion—if I may again cite what St. Vincent de Paul said in the July 24, 1655 repetition of prayer—and their keeping of the living faith with simplicity, without dissecting things, in their submission to orders and in their patience with regard to the miseries they have to endure as God may will. Identifying with Jesus, the Lord’s Suffering Servant, the poor too proclaim: “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”
Assured that ultimately they will not be put to shame and convinced of the joy that lay ahead and looking forward to being welcomed to where God has his throne, the poor boast only in the cross of their Lord Jesus Christ; they endure their own crosses and scorn the shame associated with them. Notwithstanding their feeling of abandonment and despair, they hold on to the promise that they are never forgotten and that the crucified Jesus is the guarantee that their names are engraved on the palms of the Lord God’s hands (Is. 49:15-17). Great as their mourning is, the poor know that God will come quickly to deliver them, so that, before they know it, they are soon proclaiming his great name to the assembly and singing his praise in the community, and also eating their fill (Ps. 22:20, 23, 27).
The poor eat and drink their fill in their participating in the body and blood of Christ. By so eating and drinking, they proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. They affirm too that, since there is no suffering greater than Jesus’ suffering, his sprinkled blood speaks more eloquently than Abel’s and everyone else’s, for that matter, crying out to heaven until the justice done to the crucified Poor is done as well to all those suffering poor he stands for, those who stand next to the cross weeping.