Palm Sunday, Recognizing the things that make for Peace
- Luke 19:28-40 (Gospel for the Procession). Luke’s account of Jesus’ messianic entry into Jerusalem heightens the struggle which Jesus will face in the city and temple.
- Isaiah 50:4-7 In the prophecy of Isaiah the third Song of the Suffering Servant combines listening and abject humiliation with dignified strength.
- Philippians 2:6-11. Jesus emptied himself of his divine dignity, to be incarnated in our midst and suffer the humiliation of the cross.
- Luke 22:14-23:56. The Passion according to Luke portrays Jesus more frequently than the other gospels in prayer, in forgiveness, and in concern for others.
Thoughts for your own consideration: By John Gonzalez
I am on a train leaving Washington DC as I reflect on the lectionary readings for Palm Sunday. This past weekend a multitude gathered in the Capitol, marching and advocating for the rights of immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples. I cannot help but consider the similarity between the immigrant march and the historical moment when Jesus was triumphantly entering Jerusalem. The march brought a hundred thousand people to be in solidarity over an issue that concerns all of us. We all felt great. The success that some of us had with our representatives afterwards only fueled these powerful feelings. Likewise we read that Jesus entered Jerusalem with great fanfare. Even as the Pharisees request that the disciples tone down their message Jesus suggested to them that this excitement would continue with the stones themselves. In other words the energy was palpable, just as it was for us this past Saturday.
But even as we began to pack and head back to our respective regions many of us began to reflect on the challenging political atmosphere that is awaiting us. Our congressional representatives applauded this exciting event but they too reminded us of the pragmatic political reality that would compromise this initiative. I feel a deep sense of solidarity with Jesus who immediately after his triumphant entry wept over the city saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
During the workshops over the weekend we were reminded of a value that is at the heart of the first reading and the Gospel. The suffering servant is distinguished by his ability to listen, pray and forgive. Issues such as healthcare, abortion and immigration touch people at their core because in some real way they are affected by these issues. This past weekend we in the United States have been affected by all three issues. People react to issues in any number of ways: they can be defensive, reactionary and possibly provocative (for or against the issue) or they may be thoughtful and reasonable and yet here again they may take any number of positions with the issues. The workshops taught us to listen to the legitimate feelings and frustrations of people who will share with us their perspective on these issues with us and to reconcile their feelings and concerns with the broader principles of faith. The Church, like Jesus, is called to be prophetic and to not compromise the values of the Kingdom of God. But in fulfilling our prophetic role we must raise these values while pastorally attending to the feelings and concerns of all the people who will be either in support or against the principles of our Catholic social teachings.
Jesus laments how the greater value of peace eludes the people of Jerusalem. The peace of God flows from the principles of the common good and the preferential option for the poor, principles that we learn from Jesus’ parables and teachings. But when people are challenged by issues that affect them directly, it may be too difficult for them to envision broader community principles that seem to go against their own self-interest. Our challenge is to listen attentively to their stories and to pray with them in hopes that we can walk together in reconciling their issues with the concern of all God’s people.
However there will be times that we will hit an impasse. We may have to endure insult and betrayal. This is perhaps the most challenging role of the suffering servant, but in following the ways of Christ we will be asked to forgive. Jesus forgives Peter, the executioners and the thief. He consoles the women in the midst of his own suffering. Being completely imperfect my own reaction is to vent my own frustrations when I encounter severe and sometimes irrational disagreements on social issues. But this is the challenge we are given in following the Lamb of God. The example of Jesus is to pray and to offer up to God these social challenges. It will be from God that we will get the courage to continue being both prophetic and pastoral.