Palm Sunday, Year A-2011

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
But we proclaim Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23—NAB)

Jesus arrived at the capital of the kingdom. From what could be seen and heard, he was warmly welcomed and duly acknowledged as the messianic king of David’s line. He was acclaimed with shouts of, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.”

But the Messiah came as a meek king, riding on a borrowed ass, and not on a magnificent horse fitting a victorious warrior king who could just commandeer it from anyone of his subjects. And Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem would not spell his taking possession of the throne of David; it would culminate rather on the cross. Jesus would die on the cross, after which the earth would quake in the same manner that the whole city of Jerusalem was shaken when he entered it [1].

Jesus’ obedience to the point of death, even death on the cross, is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But the exaltation of Christ Jesus precisely consists in this stumbling block, this foolishness, this humiliation, and it all redounds to the glory of God and the salvation of human beings, regardless of whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

Not that God, as I have said on more than one occasion, is a blood-thirsty deity whose wrath needs appeasing with bloody animal or human sacrifices—even if he surely reserves to himself the prerogative to test any believer he may want to test (cf. Ps. 50:7-15; Gen. 22). Were God an angry and vengeful deity, then it would have to be said that humans are saved from God, rather than saved by him [2]. Jesus’ crucifixion, as acceptable a sacrifice to God as it surely was, did not aim at appeasing the supposed divine fury; rather it was meant to undo Adam’s disobedience though Jesus’ obedience.

Jesus died to affirm what Adam, attempting to usurp divine wisdom, had sought to deny (Gen. 3:1-6). On the cross climaxed Jesus’ identification with human beings, especially with the marginalized, the rejected by the establishment, the sick and the poor, the judged and the convicted, the despised and the mocked, the victims of injustice, hatred, treachery, torture, lie, oppression, or inaction and apathy[3]. Jesus crucified acknowledged for all of us our humanity, our poverty and powerlessness as creatures before our Creator, our absolute need for God, our not so infrequent feeling of abandonment. Having been an obedient man of sorrows, Jesus is now a merciful and faithful high priest before God in order to expiate the sins of the people and to come to the rescue of those who suffer and are tempted (Is. 53:3; Heb. 2:14-18). His familiarity with suffering makes him able not only to sympathize with our weaknesses but also to address to the weary words that will rouse them and to teach those who are tested how to triumph in the midst of tribulations (Heb. 4:14-16).

Jesus’ death on the cross proved that indeed he loved us to the end and to the fullest extent (Jn. 13:1). On the cross, Jesus personified his teaching, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn. 15:12). Madly in love, our Lord died crucified for us sinners and ungodly individuals; crying out in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit, giving up at the same time his body and shedding his blood, the blood of the covenant, on behalf of all for the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 5:6-8).

Christ crucified, along with the least of his brothers and sisters, is really here with us. Do we recognize him? May we never eat or drink judgment on ourselves by failing to discern the body fully (1 Cor. 11:29). And may we resolve—as did St. Paul and St. Vincent de Paul (1 Cor. 2:2)[4]—to know nothing more and nothing less than Jesus Christ, and him crucified.


NOTES:

[1] Cf. the footnote 8 on Mt. 21:10 in the New American Bible.
[2] Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season (New York, NY: The Seabury Press; Crossroad Book, 1977) 88.
[3] Cf. José Antonio Pagola, “Escándalo y locura” at http://somos.vicencianos.org/comentarios/2011/04/13/ciclo-a-domingo-de-ramos-reflexion-de-jose-antonio-pagola/ (accessed April 14, 2010).
[4] Common Rules of the C.M. XII, 8.