Here we are at the beginning of another Holy Week.  I suppose we can begin by congratulating each other on our surviving the winter – and what a winter it was!  Holy Weeks begins, as always, with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the Readings of the Passion, according to St Matthew.

Today we retrace the entry of Jesus into the Holy City.  It is a glorious occasion which sees Christ heralded as the King of Israel who comes in the name of the Lord.  This really gives us only a foretaste of the glory and royalty of Christ because he must pass through the Passion in order to reach final and lasting glory.

Jesus comes riding on a donkey:

Rejoice, rejoice, People of Zion
Shout for joy – you people of Jerusalem
Look your King is coming to you.
He comes triumphant and victorious
But humble and riding on a donkey
On a colt – the foal of a donkey.

All through his Passion – Jesus rejected violence.  He orders Peter to put away his sword.  Many times, during this week, we will be invited to come together to hear the story of what Jesus suffered for us.  
•    To pray in praise and thanks in response.
•    To celebrate Mass – so as to find the Body of Christ, given for us, and to drink His blood.
•    These are days of suffering for the Church which relives in itself the sufferings of Christ.
•    Days of recollection and silence as we see God’s plan unfolded.
•    Days of hope – death has been conquered. There is life beyond the grave.
•    Days of serenity and of joy – as we discover the power of love to triumph.

God comes, battered and beaten, covered with insults and spits.  He does this for us and to take our sins upon his shoulders.

He could ask the Father and get legions of angels to set him free but that is not his way.  It is not the Father’s way.

He comes surrounded by the people who had been there when he called Lazarus and raised him from death.  They had reported what had happened – that was why the crowd met him.  They are the little people of the world.

He gives them His Body and Blood.  Then afterwards mentions the traitor and that they would all run away.

The way Jesus enters Jerusalem is important.  The story of the entry of Jesus gives us the key to understanding all that subsequently happened to Jesus.  So, thinking about this story is an excellent start to Holy Week.  

To understand the story we need to remember the words of the prophet Zachariah – who foretold that God’s chosen ones would come to save his people humbly – riding a donkey.

Jesus knew that by banishing chariots and horses and all the armour of war, he was fulfilling the prophesy.

Today we thank God for all the great public leaders of our time – Ghandi Martin Luther King and the leaders of our own Peace Movement here in Ireland – who have chosen the way of non violence.

Suffering is one of the great mysteries of life on this earth.  

•    Why do innocent people suffer so much?
•    How can a good God allow so much suffering?

I don’t have the answers to these questions.  I can only say that I find it helpful to pray this prayer every day:

O my God – I offer you all my thoughts, words, actions and sufferings of this day in union with those of my Saviour, Jesus Christ  I believe that by uniting my sufferings to the sufferings of Christ helps me to accept those sufferings and hopefully to endure them in the same spirit as Jesus endured his suffering.

I have also come to appreciate the following prayer, more and more.  

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord
Your grace into our hearts
That we to whom the Incarnation of Christ
was made known by the message of an angel
May by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.

Like everyone else I believe that I am made for glory – a glory that lasts for ever and ever. The kind of glory that Christ proved is possible by rising from the dead.   But I also believe this:  I can only reach that glory by the Passion and Cross of Jesus.  

But what does that mean?

I think it means that we will reach Eternal Glory if we approach suffering and death in the same way that Jesus approached his passion and death.  We see how Jesus went to meet his death  in the Gospel – how he made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem humbly – obediently – willingly – riding on a donkey – praying that if it could be possible to skip, to avoid, the cup of suffering – let it be but if not – let the Will of the Father be done.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  We are blessed as we come together in the Name of the Lord Jesus.  We are here to listen once more to what Jesus suffered for love of us – and to let it touch our hearts as we hear how he entered Jerusalem.  We are amazed at his humility.  He comes, riding on a donkey.

At the Last Supper Jesus is well aware that:

1.    One of the twelve will betray him.  
2.    Peter, their leader, will deny him,
3.    All of them will fall asleep and run away leaving him alone with Mary and John and the women.  

What is his reaction?

He is not concerned for himself but for them and their faith.  He gives them his Body and Blood. He washes their feet as an example.  He ordains them priests.  He gives them the gift of the great commandment – Love one another as I love you/

Jesus comes humbly – but he does not travel to Calvary alone.  He is in constant conversation with His Father – in prayer.  He meets his mother Mary on the way to Calvary and what a meeting that must have been!  He is consoled by the women of Jerusalem who wept for him!  But he is more concerned for them and, above all, for their children.  He begs them to weep for themselves and their children that they may never be deceived by Satan and may never turn away from God.

On the cross, Jesus is, at all times, thinking of others – not about himself.  He answers the prayer of the Good Thief –‘you will be with me in Paradise’. He gives his mother and his beloved disciple into the care of each other and, most wonderfully of all, he pardons his executioners:  ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’.

There is a powerful lesson here for us too.  None of us need carry our cross alone.  God carries our cross with us as he carried it with His Son.  Jesus actually accepts his cross.  It is a lowely moment to accept a cross:  

  •     When you know that you are terminally ill,
  •     When you know a loved one has really left you,
  •     When you know the loss of bereavement – the pain of failure and rejection.
  •     When you allow yourself to enter into loneliness and grief,
  •     When you suffer through mistakes you have made.

Pope John Paul II died in 2005 – in Easter week.  Two weeks from now he will be declared ‘Blessed’.  That means the Church will formally declare that he is now Blessed in Heaven – where he sees God, face to face.

He achieved this because he accepted all the suffering that came his way in life – and it was huge – from the loss of his parents and brother at an early age to the invasion and the persecution of his beloved Poland by the Nazis and then the Communists.  Then there was the attempt by an assassin to shoot him and finally the terminal illness which saw him lose his voice.  All through this he united his sufferings to those of Jesus.  He frequently flung himself on the floor of his chapel in the form of the cross to show his acceptance of his suffering and his union with Christ.  

We too will be blessed if we accept our sufferings and offer them up in union with Christ to the Father.