March 28, 2010
Here Comes the King!
Lk 22:14 -23:56
The late Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, was famous for his humor and wit. And he was also known as the most vocal and fearless critic of the two-decade Marcos dictatorship. One time, he was invited to ride in the presidential limousine. He was made to sit in between President Marcos and the First Lady Imelda Marcos. Reporters interviewed the Cardinal afterwards and asked him about the experience. The Cardinal purportedly said, “Well, I was silent for most of the time. I just felt like Jesus Christ.” “What do you mean, Your Eminence?” they asked. He explained, “I felt like Jesus Christ being crucified in between two thieves.”
During these days, we are all invited to feel like Jesus – to accompany Jesus in his sufferings and death, to be one with him and experience his passion. That is why as we begin the Holy Week, the Gospel that we hear is the long narrative of the Passion of Jesus Christ. This Sunday, therefore, is rightly called “Sunday of the Lord’s Passion” or “Passion Sunday.”
This Sunday, we commemorate the hour when Jesus entered the holy city of Jerusalem for the last time. It was a triumphal entry of Jesus as king, reminding us of King David when he entered and took possession of Jerusalem. This is precisely what St. Luke clearly emphasized in his gospel. “The whole multitude of his disciples proclaimed: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus is king. And we have to follow him. He entered Jerusalem, but that was just the beginning. We have to follow him, step by step – from the gates of Jerusalem, to the Upper Room, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the Praetorium, to Calvary and then to the tomb where he gloriously rose from the dead.
In following him, we should be fully aware of the kind of kingship Jesus represents and exercises. Reading through the story of the Passion, St. Luke identified the major characteristics of the kingship of Christ as against the kingship of this world. At the Last Supper, Jesus showed that his kingship is Eucharistic, where people are gathered together eating and drinking as one family, without discrimination and divisions in an all-inclusive fellowship of God’s children. The worldly kingship, on the contrary, promotes divisions, competition, and segregation according to class, color, economic and social standing.
While Jesus was still speaking to the disciples, they were already arguing and debating as to which of them was the greatest. That is the worldly kingship which is based on the desire to dominate and conquer others. But the kingship of Jesus is based on the desire to serve: “let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.”
At the Garden of Gethsemane, the soldiers arrived with swords and clubs to apprehend Jesus. The worldly kingship is violent and unforgiving. Jesus showed the contrary – a kingship of non-violence and healing – he even healed the ear of the high priest’s servant.
When Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, serious accusations were hurled against him. Peter was also accused by three bystanders. Everybody was accusing and condemning one another. Worldly kingship is that of accusations and condemnations, hitting and destroying one another. But amidst all these accusations, Jesus just bowed his head in silence. Though he had all the right to judge being the sinless one, he chose not to accuse anyone. His kingdom does not accuse, but forgives and welcomes back sinners. That is why on the cross, he offered forgiveness to the repentant thief, and prayed for his persecutors.
Through all these, it is clearly shown the kind of kingship Jesus has – a kingship not of division but unity and inclusive fellowship; not out of the desire to dominate but to serve; not of violence but non-violence and healing; not of accusation but forgiveness; not of selfishness but love.
As Jesus begins his final and painful journey, he enters the gates of Jerusalem as king – and he invites us to follow him. We lift and wave our palm branches, aware that these are not only symbols of victory but also of martyrdom. We lay down our precious cloaks on the road not only to give honor to the king but also to show our readiness to leave all things behind so we can follow our king. We shout and rejoice not only to acclaim our king, but also as our battle cry as our king leads us in the fight against the worldly kingdom of selfishness, violence and pride.
Let this Holy Week provide us with the graces we need in order to follow our king, Jesus Christ. He takes the difficult and narrow Way of the Cross, but we are assured of victory and fullness of life. The Second Vatican Council aptly puts it: “By suffering for us He not only provided us with an example for our imitation. He blazed a trail and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning” (“The Church Today”).
May we all have a blessed and meaningful Holy Week this year.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002