Ax + Sword: Lenten Commentary 2018
Week 6 (Holy Week)
Christ became obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name. (Phil. 2:8-9 NAB)
Ancient cities were built with walls. It wasn’t a political issue like it might be today. It was just the way they built cities. I think that was what separated the village from the city – the size of the wall. Jerusalem was a city with walls. And gates. And People both inside and outside. This is backdrop for controversy.
On “Palm Sunday” the church celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. This is the start of “Holy Week.” By design it mostly aligns with the Jewish celebration of Passover as it continues to commemorate the final days of Jesus which occurred during the feast of Passover many years ago.
The Gospel of Mark tells the story quickly about Jesus’ final days. He prepares his disciples to enter Jerusalem to finalize his mission of being handed over to sinners for the salvation of the world. Jesus enters the city with his disciples and people begin to gather welcoming him with Hosannas (one of those ancient words English has no equivalent for) and shouts of deliverance. They have the eyes of faith to see what Jesus is doing even though he’s doing it all wrong. Jesus interprets the prophets in a way most would not notice. Instead of riding into the city on a horse with an army behind him, he unassumingly enters on a donkey with the poor and powerless, the homeless and hopeless surrounding him – yes an army perhaps, but an army of outcasts.
As Jesus enters the city, the tone changes and so does the language. Jesus is not welcome in the city this time. The people inside the city: the rich and powerful, those who collude with the Romans, the religious authorities and the political authorities, they don’t want Jesus upsetting their personal kingdoms.
So where do we stand? Are we insiders or outsiders? This is a real question if we are ever going to understand the role of Christianity in the world today. Are we singing Hosannas to Jesus or shouting ‘crucify him’ louder and louder each time we are bribed by the power of economics?
This “Holy Week” we are invited to follow Jesus through his most intimate moments. We are invited to walk with him, to help him carry his cross at certain moments and to pile on our insults at others. I wonder if the church is ready for this week. Not that we get much of a say in when and how these things occur, but it’s an interesting question. Is the church ready? Are we ready?
Journeying with Jesus is not easy. Jesus suffers insults, spit, punches, scourging, whips and words and wounds beyond words. Jesus is abused by criminals, scripture tells us.
Jesus takes on a passive role as he enters Jerusalem. It is enough that he was spent the past few years preaching and teaching and healing and forgiving. When confronted by false testimony, but accusations, he can say nothing to change the minds of his accusers. Maybe his actions will speak louder than his words.
This week, take some time to journey with Jesus on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow, to the place of the skull where Jesus is crucified. Even scripture barely mentions how Jesus dies as if it’s just a passing thought or an insignificant fact. Maybe scripture knew how little the world would think of this moment.
Are you in or are you out? I’m ready to get back out on the streets and meet Jesus again to sing Hosannas and to look at the cross. Even if I cannot comfort Christ in his moment of need, maybe he will comfort me. If we can be obedient, like Jesus, then we will leave behind our luxurious lives of sin, break down walls that divide, and follow him to exalted glory. All that happens outside the walls with the bruised and broken. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Fr. Ross Miceli, M.Div., S.T.B., is pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Kersey and Campus Minister at Elk County Catholic in St. Marys. He can be reached at email@example.com for questions or comments.