Sunday, April 01, 2007

Were you there when they crucified my Lord??


Today is Palm Sunday. I suspect that many of today's youth have no idea what this means, or what historical drama is being played out. I can tell you younguns confidentially that it is not a marketing campaign day for a certain electronic hand held device. Pass it on.

Palm Sunday commemerates the triumphant entry into Jerusalem of one Jesus of Nazareth - a man who on that day was so revered that the crowd spontaneously tore palm leaves from trees and spread them in his path. He was conveyed into the city on a donkey, and by the end of that week - what we now call Holy Week - he was set upon by a much lesser breed of asses and summarily put to death on a cross by the Roman procurator of the day. The procurator, Pontius Pilot, sentenced him to death even though he admitted that he found no fault in Jesus. Don't be too hard on Pilot. He is the merely the forerunner of so many Catholic politicians of today. "I think putting an inncocent man to death is wrong, but if the majority are in favour of it, hey, ..... I can't let my personal beliefs get in the way of the will of the people .........

Today, everywhere thoughout the world, Catholics, including many Catholic politicians of the ilk above, gather to celebrate mass - part of which always involves a number of readings from scripture. Palm Sunday begins the most solemn, dreadful and inspiring of weeks in the liturgical calendar. The readings this week are much longer than usual as the Passion of our Lord is read out - from the garden of Gesthemene, where Jesus knelt, prayed and suffered so greatly that scripture tells us His sweat fell as blood on the ground - through His arrest, trial, beatings, crucifixion. Towards the end, Jesus in indescribable agony utters the words, "It is consummated" bows His head and (in the words of the old Douay Rheims version of the bible) "He gave up the ghost."

Along the way his disciple Judas betrays him, his disciple Peter (the first Pope) denies him three times, and all but one of the other ten (the first college of bishops) flee in fear and confusion. Of the disciples only Saint John, stood beneath Jesus cross to see his master writhe in pain. The solemn (and to my eight year old son - interminable) readings in Holy Week end with Jesus being laid in a freshly hewn tomb donated by a just member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, a fellow known to history as Joseph of Arimethia.

Holy Week is a time of great solemnity and reflection. It is a time when God teaches us through example what it is to love unconditionally, totally and eternally. Greater love hath no man than that of God who gives up his life for his creatures ..... you and me.

The extraordinary ending of this tale is not read in churches until next Sunday on Easter Day, when Christians around the globe cry out those great words of our faith that have rolled down the ages from then until now, "He is risen!"

But this is the beginning, not the end, of Holy Week.


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