Celebrating the mystery that is here and now
Our feast today is not a reenactment of history, a remembering of the events that took place in Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. Our feast today is rather an invitation to enter into the mystery of this most sacred week, the paschal mystery of dying and rising.
Today we read two passages from the gospel of Matthew. In the first we see the crowds cheering Jesus as he enters Jerusalem; they want to make him their king. Jesus performs a highly symbolic act and enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This action would have reminded them of a passage in the prophet Zechariah which says:
“See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he,
Meek, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem;
The warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.”
So this was the accession of a king. But unfortunately, many mistook this for a political kingdom, when in fact it was far greater than that: it was the kingdom of God breaking into history in a way the world had never before experienced.
In the passion account of the gospel of Matthew, we see the crowd again assembled, but this time they are demanding that Jesus be put to death and the overpowering symbol we encounter is that of the cross. As Christians living today in the world, we cannot deny that the cross is with us still, casting its shadow through history down to our own times.
We see the shadow of the cross wherever the innocent get caught in the hatred of others. We hear it in the cries of the oppressed for justice. We see it in the intensive care unit of Children's Hospital where the innocent suffers for no seeming reason. And we see it in our personal lives in our inability to forsake the ways of sin and hatred.
But if our world knows the shadow of the cross, it also knows the hope and promise of the resurrection. For there is no pain which God does not also feel and there is no one to whom the promise of God's love and light are not held out. Christ's cross has redeemed all other suffering and given meaning to what is beyond our comprehension.
We stand at the beginning of the holiest week of the church year. Let us remember that Holy Week is not remembering history that was; it is celebrating mystery that is here and now.
Fr. Larry Snyder
Vice President for Mission