“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”….“Crucify Him! Crucify Him”! What? Wait! That doesn’t make sense. Why would they first bless him, and then curse him? Why would Judas betray Jesus with a kiss? Why would Peter deny that he knows his best friend yet call those who accuse him of knowing Jesus his friends?
Why would Pilate deny his own conviction about Jesus’s innocence merely because the voices in the crowd were getting too loud? It just doesn’t make sense. Or does it?
If we are honest with ourselves, then we shouldn’t have a hard time admitting that we aren’t unlike the crowd on the Mount of Olives who first praise the Lord and then curse Him. That, like Judas, we betray the Lord because our expectations aren’t being met and so we reach for worldly allurements. That, like Peter, we deny Jesus many times for our own safety and to appease others. And, like Pilate, we let the loud distracting voices of our culture to sound out the voice on our own conscience.
These readings on Palm Sunday can help us to realize just how weak we are. If we look closely, we’ll see our sin staring us in the face, and it sure is ugly. However, if we look even closer, we’ll see something much more beautiful staring us in the face…the merciful and loving face of Jesus. Jesus, who while being crucified yells, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. Jesus, who stares into the face of the repentant thief and says, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. Yes Jesus, the face of God!
It is he who “knew no sin but became sin for us.” He who “while we were still sinners, still died for us”. (Rm. 5:8) He who “gave his back to those who beat him, his cheek to those who plucked his beard.(1’st reading) He who “emptied himself… humbled himself… and was obedient (in the place of our disobedience) to the point of death; death on a Cross. (2’nd reading) This is truly the good news of Palm Sunday, and this good news should make us passionate about the Lord’s Passion. Because even though we are all ‘like’ the crowd, Judas, Peter, and Pilate, because of what the Lord accomplished in His passion and death, he makes it possible for us to be ‘like’ Him. And here we come back, full-circle in the divine love story of salvation history. Was it not God who made us to be ‘like’ him in the first place? “Then God said, ‘let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness’… “God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:26-27) And was it not the devil who planted his very first lie to these very first humans about this very first truth? “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God..” ( Gen 3:5) In other words, “God does not want you to be ‘like’ him, in fact he is afraid that you will be”. Nothing could have been further from the truth, yet our identity was attacked at its cor, and we lost the battle. But Jesus, the visible image of the invisible God, has won the war and our likeness has been restored. For God, “has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sons…making peace by the blood of his cross”. (1 Col 13-14, 20). Brothers and sisters, let us never again be ‘like’ anyone or anything else except for who we were always created to be like – God himself – in Christ Jesus. Let’s live from our Cor.
- Fr. Paul Houlis is a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark and he currently serves as the Parochial Vicar at St. Paul’s Church in Ramsey, NJ. He has attended TOB I, TOB II (where he served as chaplain), TOB II, Theology of the Body & Art: The Way of Beauty and Theology of the Body & Priestly Identity courses.