Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (2015)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
It was Andy Warhol, the famous painter of the 1960’s, who first uttered the words that practically everyone today knows by heart: “In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.” Most of us would probably say, “I’m still waiting for it to happen.”
Well, whether any of us has ever been famous even for 5 minutes in our life, it is still a worthy thought, indeed. Most of us in the secret chambers of our mind earnestly desire to be known by someone else, whether by a friend or a crowd of onlookers. No one of us, I should imagine, wants to go through life unremembered.
I am sure it must also have been so for Jesus of Nazareth. From being an unknown in Nazareth in his younger days he became known all over Israel. Fame is not something that simply fell upon him, of course, and he did not search it out, but he became well known nonetheless because of his passion for justice and his willingness to “speak truth to power” and, indeed, die for it. Again, he did none of this for fame but because he felt this deep desire to set things aright in the small world that he knew.
And so, we all know the story, how he made his way to Jerusalem, the seat of power in his land one day to demonstrate his passion. A small group of his followers from Galilee met him at the entrance to the city; they were determined to salute their local hero with whatever means they had at hand: palm boughs and even their winter mantels. Obviously, this small parade hardly matched the Roman emperor’s entry to Jerusalem, but it was something, it was their way of saying: “Jesus of Nazareth is our local savior. Glory to God in the highest.”
Of course, we all know from having heard this story countless times, that this small parade was only the first act of the day’s activities, the joyful part. It was followed by threats to his life and ultimately punishment and death on a cross.
Let it be noted, however, that Jesus deliberately chose this “entrance into Jerusalem.” It was all part of his plan to call out to the authorities, Jewish and Roman, that God’s kingdom was close at hand and that attention must be paid by the world’s powers that the end was close at hand.
In short, Jesus clearly knew beforehand that this “entrance into the city” would go badly for him, but he was willing to endure the suffering that would accompany it.
I would not wish to say that fame and suffering are naturally part one of the other; nonetheless, it often happens that way; we are well aware from having lived for a while that “life is not a bowl of cherries.” The experience of most of us is that life, more narrowly, is a series of successes and setbacks, joys and sorrows, happiness and despair. That’s simply the way it is in this world and we all know it only too well. Does that mean that we cannot expect “days of wine and roses” occasionally, some moments of spiritual and human success? Hardly. So then, what does this celebration of Jesus passion teach us? First of all, that it is unnecessary to go out and seek success and adulation. Some of will come our way nonetheless. Nor is it spiritually reasonable to seek out sufferings. They too will come our way without being sought out. The better route to take on life’s road is to “simply live simply,” doing what we can to live honorably and truthfully in this world, doing good when we can and accepting setbacks when they come our way, always remembering that Jesus too had his good days and, obviously, his tragic ones as well. Ultimately, it is somewhere in the middle of all that great mystery that true happiness occurs, somewhere between glory and tragedy.
The scriptures: Isaiah 50: 4-7 • Philippians 2: 6-11 • Mark 14:1-15-47
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion