Life & Soul Life and Soul

What to pray for as Holy Week begins

Entry into Jerusalem, by Spanish Baroque painter Pedro Orrente (1580–1645)

Palm Sunday
Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14 – 23:56 (Year C)

The liturgy of Holy Week begins with the blessing of palms and the commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem. Superficially there is a stark contrast between the unrestrained jubilation with which the crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem and the hostility that was so soon to lead to crucifixion. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” became “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

It is undoubtedly true that many had hoped that Jesus would be a political saviour, freeing Israel from Roman domination. Their enthusiasm rapidly dissolved as they witnessed the humiliation of Jesus before Pontius Pilate.

Sinful humanity is always challenged by the ambiguity of Palm Sunday. Do we welcome Christ as the short-term answer to our struggles, or as the one who enables us, with him, to die to self so as to be raised up in his resurrection? The question seems simple enough, but confronts the confusion of divided hearts.

At the beginning of Holy Week, let us pray for the listening of Isaiah’s suffering servant. “Each morning he wakens me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear. For my part I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.”

Listening is at the heart of repentance. Painful though it be, we cannot resist the truth about ourselves and a sinful world. The humility of such listening strips a sinful world of selfish delusion, making it one with Christ ‘“who did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave. He was humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross.”

Throughout his ministry Jesus had summoned his disciples to become servants. As they had approached Jerusalem, he had warned them of his approaching death: “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of man is to come true. He will be handed over and will be mocked and spat upon. They will put him to death, and on the third day he will rise again.”

The Evangelist records that “they could make nothing of this; what he said was quite obscure to them. They did not understand what he was telling them.”

May the Lord’s Spirit of truth and understanding so penetrate our hearts that, in the days ahead, we shall gladly surrender ourselves to his death and resurrection.