Saturday, April 16, 2011

Donkeys, Palms and Hosannas

 I went to open my mail a few weeks ago after returning from a mission and was happily surprised to see that Bishop Robert Lynch of our diocese of St. Petersburg, had sent me and every priest residing in the diocese a copy of Pope Benedict's second volume of his work Jesus of Nazareth. This particular volume deals with the Scriptures related to Holy Week.  His holiness is not presenting this material as official teaching of the Church, but as personal writing and scholarship.  It is meant to use scholarship in such a way as to not only enlighten the mind, but to bring the heart closer to the Lord Jesus.  I think it does that.

  I am not however writing this entry as a book review.  I will leave that to others.  With Palm Sunday upon us I thought I might simply reflect here on a few of the points that the Pope makes regarding this wonderul day.  the first thing he calls attention to is the proclamation of the kingship of Jesus who in each of the Gospels is the fulfillment of the promise of a new David.  We see this in gestures such as the requisitioning of a donkey which is not His.  This was the prerogative of kings.  Likewise garments are placed on the donkey and in the path of Jesus, another gesture reserved for kings.  The real curve ball is that this king, "humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt,  the foal of a donkey." (Mt. 2:5,cf. Zech 9:9; Jn 12:15)  (from page 4 of Jesus of Nazareth, Vol 2) There was an expectation of a political and military king about at the time and the language  and imagery of such a king is used, but this One come in humility, on a donkey.  Donkey were once the choice of kings but at the time of Jesus the horse was the animal of the powerful, the donkey having been relegated to use by peasants and the lowly.
   A second point made by the Holy Father is the fact that the crowds shouting Hosanna were the followers of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, not the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  The latter did not know Him, they had merely heard of Him.  They had not come to "see" as Bartimaeus, the blind man had come to "see" Jesus in the account which takes place just before the entry into Jerusalem.  It was they who later shouted "crucify Him." I know that over the years I had assumed that the same people who cried Hosanna had called for the crucifixion, but not so.   The little people then cry Hosanna, the religious establishment and the powerful call for His crucifixion.

   A third point made in this part of the book is the connection with the Liturgy.  We are told that very early on the Church began praying at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer, in words borrowed directly from the Palm Sunday Gospel accounts,  "Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." as a welcoming acclamation to the One who is the Messiah king and who comes to us in the Eucharist.

    And what might we learn from this?  Jesus is a King, but One who comes in humble love.  Certainly those of us who are leaders in the Church ought to remember this when we are tempted to be pompous and authoritarian.   We need to hear this message loud and clear in today's Church.  Also to receive Jesus, the humble one, we need to be little and receptive, like the crowds that followed Jesus from "outside the walls." So much of what's going on today calls us to identify with the immigrant, the marginalized, the poor and to stand with them if we are to truly welcome Jesus into our lives. I truly believe that focusing ourselves on growing in our relationship with Jesus, rather than on fighting over who is conservative and who is liberal, is the key to renewal in the Church today.

  To conclude I ask "Are you marching into Jerusalem as a follower of  Jesus and shouting Hosanna?  Or are you asking, "Is this the one from Galilee?" and looking on Him with suspicious eye?  The truth is that there is a little of each in all of us. Our conversion lies in acknowledging this and moving more towards the first position. Happy Palm Sunday everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment