Mark 11:1-11 Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 Mark 15:1-39
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One of my favourite poems is The Donkey by G. K. Chesterton. It is about today, Palm Sunday, written from the perspective of the donkey and goes;
When fishes flew and forests walked And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood, Then surely I was born;
With monstrous head and sickening cry And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody Of all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth, Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, I keep my secret still.
Fools ! For I also had my hour; One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears, And palms before my feet!
It speaks to me of some of the essence of the Christian way of life. The poor old donkey is an humble creature. His is not a silk smooth hide, his tail is no fine gossamer, his cry is not the noble whinny of the stallion nor does he have the gait of a thoroughbred. The donkey is a lowly creature but he is strong, deliberate and honest, and for those reasons was chosen by Jesus as His Mount of Choice for His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
It’s a fact, none of us is the sleek thoroughbred we would like to be, at best we are work horses, maybe even donkeys, often set down in one spot, doing God’s work, taking care of others, providing for others and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ by Word and by Action, by being there when needed. Angelina and Brad may be the beautiful faces of all that we would like to be, but I prefer my life, I hope you do yours. We don’t know what Jesus looked like except that He had human form. He probably had warm welcoming eyes and compassion in His face, but he was probably not a tall man, nor well built (grown men and women then had the stature of today’s teenagers) and His hair was probably very ordinary not the flowing coiffure we see in the average Jesus painting. His gait probably showed the effect of years of travel on foot. He was surely a lot like us.
Except He was called to do the miraculous ! Prophets like Isaiah had written about Him, about His suffering, the Psalmist too, describing His rejection yet ultimate faith in God. And St. Paul reaffirmed that Jesus was an humble human being with a special mission who was duly rewarded by God after a life of teaching, charity and healing. Can we aspire to the same ?
St. Mark though tells us of the horrific events surrounding Jesus’ execution: the traitorous Civic and Religious leaders bending the laws to their own ends: the indifference to justice of the judiciary, in the person of Pilate, who was concerned only with living an untroubled life: the herd like crowd’s obedience to corrupt leaders: no one standing up for the Truth, not one solitary word. How much like many places in the world today ! And then there was the barbarous and belittling soldiers heaping torment on a doomed man – compassion had run away and was nowhere to be found. A brutal life leads to brutish behaviour and that is what the soldiers showed, even one of the criminals being executed with Him berated Him – violence begets violence and the Prince of Peace did not overcome it. One moment of respite came in the form of a co-opted helper but Jesus needed more to endure the agony of being nailed to a Cross and being hoisted up to face the heat of the Sun, and the struggle to breathe. The leaders, the soldiers and the crowd continued to taunt and humiliate Jesus, even in His desperate need. A mob is a dangerous thing and it’s easy to get caught up by its evil energy, its willfulness and its lack of intelligent and compassionate thought.
No wonder Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me ?” Most of His friends had left Him, only one disciple, His mother and a few other women were still around, a vast contrast to the triumphal entry just six days before. Perhaps on that Sunday, today, Jesus looked at the crowd, at us, and trying not to be cynical thought how fickle they were and we could be. When tragedy strikes it strikes quickly. Mercifully, a death which sometimes took days overcame Jesus in six horrific hours. The ground shook and the curtain of the Temple which hid the Holy of Holies from the people was ripped apart. No longer would God be hidden. No longer would the Holy be the domain claimed by a few. From now on God would positively be available to all, as God always really was, not arbitrarily and seemingly controlled by the powerful few. The sacraments, the Holy things, would be here for all to see and receive. There was one man, a centurion, who had not been totally brutalized, who saw firsthand and close-up what happened, who recognized the Truth that “Truly this man was God’s Son !”
This week I ask you to consider all that we read today, to gaze upon the Cross and the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ, hanging there and declare that truth for yourselves “Truly this man was God’s Son !” Meditate upon the event and the Man, and what it really means to your life, this Church, and the whole of humanity. Be like that stubborn donkey, don’t run away. Be the one faithful disciple or one of the faithful women who stayed, or the centurion who saw and this week relive those terrible six hours with Christ. Amen.