The King on a Pony en route to Die
(Before the Procession)
Today we begin the week of weeks in the liturgical calendar: the Holy Week. Today we begin the commemoration of the high points in the history of salvation: the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus – the Paschal Mystery. Today we accompany Jesus on his solemn entry into Jerusalem where he will suffer, die and rise again. Yet, this day is a day of contradictions.
The King on a Donkey’s Back
In the gospel of Luke Jesus is on this single, long journey that he started from the little village of Nazareth (Lk 4:42-44) to the capital of the Jewish world – Jerusalem. Now he is almost there nearing his destiny. It is going to be a solemn entry, almost as a King is about to enter to take possession of his capital. And the procession begins at the Mount of Olives – the mount that is be the stage for the ultimate Day of the Lord (according to Zechariah 14:3-4), the day of judgement. Perhaps the people have some insight into what is happening. They throw their cloaks on the road as a sign of their surrender to the king. And they sing in acclamation. The lines they sing are partly borrowed from Psalm 118 (verse 26) that celebrates the kingship of the Lord.
But here is a contradiction: the Lord rides on a donkey, and not on a horse. The horse could indicate a military, violent entry. So he has purposefully chosen a donkey, he makes a humble entry. As the prophet Zechariah once again reminds us, “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Solemn Journey to Death
This tumultuous celebration is not going to last long. We know from history what is going to happen. Perhaps Jesus knows too: after all, he has made a choice to be the suffering servant (Lk 4:1-12). Today, he makes a solemn entry into the city. Towards the end of this week, he will make a shameful exit to be hanged on a cross. Yet, that will not be his end. This week is going to quite eventful for Jesus, and for us too.
My dear friends, let us live through these paradoxes during the coming week, together with Jesus. In living through the paradoxes is our salvation.
Let us feel as he felt. Let us think as he thought. Let us pray as he prayed. In being united with him in his suffering, death, and resurrection, is our own victory.
Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.