Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Not too long ago we were singing “Oh, Come let us Adore him.” Indeed, we even sang it back in September while parading the streets of Marlboro. While the song is based on the response of the shepherds to the announcement of the birth of the Savior by the angel(s), this weekend of Palm Sunday we are also called to COME and ADORE HIM.
We know that the child that was born in Bethlehem had a mission, he came to give his life in order to save mankind from sin. Therefore, the Nativity story has many undertones that point straight to the Passion of Christ. If you were to see the Greek icon of the nativity, Christ is placed wrapped up in swaddling clothes, just like he will be wrapped before his burial. Also as he was born in a cave (the icon makes it look like a tomb), he will also be placed in another cave, his tomb. (At the time of Christ, the dead were not buried on the ground as today, but instead they were placed in a small “cave” where there was a bed. Once decomposed, then they would collect the bones and bury them. Note that Nicodemus tomb “had not yet been used.”) One particularity that is interesting is that when Herod was told that the new king was born, he was “greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”(Mt 2:3) When Christ enters in Jerusalem acclaimed as King (there are many indications that his actions recalled the entrance of the kings from the OT), the whole city was in “turmoil”/”shaken”.
We can see that everything was planned out by God to be fulfilled in its proper time and in God’s way. It would be interesting to ask around the parish what the image is that we have of Christ, or how do we consider him as king. Many of our projections is that Christ comes to take away our sufferings, or comes to solve our problems or the problems of the world. In a way he does, but not how we imagine/hope for. Christ, the Lamb of God, comes to the sins of the world. In this process, Jesus walks with us along our life in the midst of our problems to help us to trust 100% in God. He shows us that it is possible to go through the problems in life, but we need to understand that we are also part of a plan that God has designed to save us. Part of the plan is to go through our own passion (sufferings), death (when we feel “dead inside”), so that we can also experience the resurrection (a new life). Sin is what causes us to suffer.
To better understand the plan of revelation of God’s love to us, imagine the sacrifice of a parent that sits next to a sick child, or a spouse that accompanies their loved one through their illness, hospitalization, or their final moments in life. Their selfless actions are not a “sacrifice” per se, but, instead, is a sign of love. In moments in which they most need company, encouragement, to be cared and loved, there they are. Similar is what Christ does when he enters Jerusalem. He comes triumphant, not by the worldly standard, but he comes for a mission: to suffer with us! He does not abandon us in our difficulties in our sins. The word compassion comes from the Latin com+passion (to suffering + with). Christ does not come to remove the sufferings of our lives, but rather to suffer with us, as a sign of love. He is with us, Emmanuel, God is with us. We are not alone in our sufferings. We are called to live the sufferings with Christ and also accompany those suffering as well, whatever the suffering may be. Only love can overcome everything else.
The liturgy of Palm Sunday begins by the people that welcomes Christ the King entering Jerusalem and it continues through the reading of the Passion of Christ. Today is a day in which we are called to adore, to welcome this King who comes, but he comes to suffer with and for us. Not only that, but by doing so, he also takes our sins upon himself, freeing us from our perpetual condemnation. He is not the Messiah liberator that once the Jews expected to save them from the oppression of the Roman soldiers, but he comes to liberate us from our sins.
Finally, brothers and sisters, let us live this Holy Week with faith, love and hope. If we get distracted, we can easily go through the motions of these days. However, Christ wants to live this time with and in us. As St. Paul says, if we die with Christ, we shall live with Christ. (Rm 6:8). Therefore let’s die with him this week, so as to rise with him on Easter Sunday.
Father Steven Clemence