It took me time to get into the St. Francis Parish churchyard as it was already parked full when I arrived. The guard has to pull down the gate bar to ensure order inside the parking lot. While waiting, I can see people bringing palms with them to Church, buying these from the vendors surrounding the gates. It was half past ten and the sun’s heat was nearing its peak. Everyone was in a struggle walking under the sun, as they seem to hurry to minimize the scorching heat, despite their umbrellas. I wasn’t exempted; later when I got down from the vehicle into the Church, I have to bring my own weather protection as well.
With the heat we are experiencing these early days of summer, I couldn’t imagine what our Lord Jesus experienced on that first Good Friday:
On top of the hill in Calvary, Jesus is hanging in the Cross, winching in pain as His frail body sought to tear away from the nails pierced on His hands. He is sweating both in blood and in water, as His earthly life flickers away. Jesus is not a criminal, but He is crucified with them. He hasn’t sinned but He chose to suffer and die for us sinners. All the cruelty, torture, agony and humiliation He has endured for you and me, for all mankind. Yes, for all of us.
Back to the present time, as you go about your Sunday, you could be away in a retreat, at home, in the mall, or even in a distant beach relaxing the time away, nothing has changed much. Yes, there’s a lot of difference in as far as conditions are concerned. Technology has brought us a lot of cheer, comfort and convenience. But sin just appeared in different forms, perhaps looking more decent than the way it looked then.
Since we came into this world, there’s always been a lot of inherent goodness in each of us. We started as little angels and grew up as apples-of-the-eye of our parents and grandparents. Slowly though we have experienced evil and distractions that lured us away from this goodness. As a result, this scene in Calvary is repeated: every time we commit sin we mock, torture, humiliate, and scourge Jesus. Every hour, every day, when choices are made, He suffers the same Passion and Death experienced more than two thousand years ago.
On this Palm Sunday, we celebrate the fullness of our faith. It is not by coincidence that at the Procession with Palms we are read the Gospel wherein Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem, where the crowds cried out and said, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” (Mt. 21: 9)
At the Mass that follows, however; the Gospel reveals the forthcoming Passion and Death. The soldiers arrested and brought Him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. There they spat, struck and slapped Him. In front of Pilate, the crowd shouted “Crucify him!” Even if the governor didn’t find anything wrong with Jesus, and even with his wife’s pleas, knowing that he wasn’t succeeding at all, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Today let us reflect whether we are part of the crowd that shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!” or part of the crowd that shouted “Crucify Him!”, or even both, betraying Jesus at the last moment, unsure of our faith. As we begin the Holy Week, let us journey with Him, let us talk with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, in the midst of noise and clutter of life. Maybe we will be able to understand better His cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“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 that is above every name.” (Phil. 2: 8-9)