Today, Christians throughout the world celebrate the triumphal entry of the Lord Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem. Called “Palm Sunday,” the liturgy of the day commemorates the palms thrown at the Lord’s feet and the cries of “Hosanna” that were shouted before him.
Palm Sunday also begins Holy Week, the most revered week of the entire Christian calendar. Within this one week, the principal events of human salvation will be celebrated. From Holy Thursday and Good Friday, to the Great Easter Vigil and Easter Day itself, the Passion, Death, and glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus will be solemnly re-presented to the People of God.
How should believers respond in the face of such mysteries? What is the grand “take away” of these most sacrosanct of days?
The answer to such questions can be found in the events of Holy Week. In particular, the exclamations that are given to the Lord Jesus during the next several days. First, we have today’s declaration, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The word “hosanna” means “save, we pray,” and it had intense messianic overtures. The shouting of such a greeting was a clear sign of hope and an assertion of the fulfillment of prophecy. It was noble and filled with praise and adoration.
And yet, in the course of the week, it is quickly followed by a second declaration: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The thoughts of the crowd has changed. Their demands are overwhelming. Even the procurator, Pontius Pilate, is ensnared in its web. The exclamation has no confusion or dilemma, “Kill him! Take him out! Get him out of our presence!” The words quake in their tone of condemnation and denunciation.
Such a state of affairs – from “hosanna” to “crucify him” – reveal the fallenness and capriciousness of the human heart. They show us our fickleness. We are reminded by such a series of events that, left unchecked, the heart of humanity truly blows like a reed in the wind.
The Prophet Jeremiah warned us: “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it?”
Such a reality of the fallen human heart, and its accompanying temptations, point us in the direction of an answer to our questions about Holy Week. How can we respond? What is the take away?
When the heart can move in one or another direction, what keeps it grounded? Of the many helps given to the human soul, none can open and expand it more than the gift of love. And not a falsely or incompletely defined love, but rather true love. And true love that is a willingness to suffer for the good of another. As Saint Paul teaches us, love is willing to endure all things because it hopes all things.
Saint John in his First Letter beautifully teaches us: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”
Yes, it is love that stabilizes the heart, orders our emotions, and continually convicts us to remain faithful and persevere in goodness.
As we spiritually accompany the Lord Jesus as he walks through the events of our salvation, the best response – the only response he calls for – is an act of love. It is love that will helps us to praise the Lord Jesus without end, to suffer and even be crucified with him, and to guard against any semblance of infidelity or backsliding.
It is love that is asked for, it is love that should be given.
In spite of any stirrings of our heart, we choose love. We choose to walk with the Lord and not be distracted or swayed away. Our heart is with him. Our heart is in his own heart. The steps of the Lord Jesus will be our own steps. We choose him. We choose love.
As we spiritually throw our palms today at the Lord’s feet, and as we participate in the reading of his Passion according to Mark, we should note the “hosanna” and the “crucify him” and make our choice for love. We choose love. We choose to walk with the Lord, wherever he might go. Whether in the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, or at the starkness of the procurator’s bench, we will persevere. We will be faithful. We will love!
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby