Today we commemorate the hour when Jesus entered the Holy City of Jerusalem for the last time. This HolyCitywas to be the place where his ministry on earth would be brought to its culmination.
This Sunday, Jesus starts off as anything but modest. He receives the pomp and glory of power! To honor a kingly person in those days, people lined the sides of the roadway. The custom was for the royal one to ride a colt, or donkey, which was not supposed to be a sign of humility but of kingly status. People would strew their cloaks on the roadway along with the tall palms branches they had picked to shield the King from the dirty road.
Jesus had always been very wary of this kind of treatment. He had often warned the disciples not to tell anyone about the miracles he was doing so that he would not become a celebrity. But now because He knows his hour has come, He accepts the welcome as King, although he will continue to demonstrate that he is servant king.
Jesus came to bring a different kind of kingdom, not dominance, riches, honor or power, but one of service and humility. The way of the cross was the greatest fulfillment of his kingship. A new kind of king.
The early church frequently turned to Deutero-Isaiah’s four songs of the suffering servant of Yahweh to help them understand Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is part of the third song. It contains a powerful definition of a disciple of God. “Morning by morning he wakens- wakens my ear to listen, as those who are taught. The Lord has opened my ear.” (50:4). Those who are dedicated to carrying out God’s will, will meet the dawn listening, alert to what new, God is asking of them this day. Of course, this particular prophet, active during the Babylonian Exile, knows that carrying out what he hears with his opened ears always ends up costing him big time. Beating, insult spitting! One can’t be dedicated to helping the “weary” unless one is prepared to suffer as the weary suffer. In those situations, the only recourse that true disciple has is God: “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (50:7).
One of the characteristics of a true prophet is that he or she always suffers for the message they proclaim. Jesus was both loved and hated because he became the “conscience” of his people.
Jesus knew that the handwriting was on the wall; it was no secret that they were going to put him to death. Jesus’ prophetic life and signs brought threats and, in the end, execution by those who feared his power and message. The threats on Jesus’ own life were such that he ‘no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert.’
Yet, many had gone to Jerusalemfor the Passover looking for Jesus but questioning “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”. Jesus came openly and willingly. He steadfastly continued on his mission, even knowing that it would end in sacrificing his own life.
On this day in 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while saying Mass in San Salvador. He had a deep personal conversion and was moved to his core by the death of his friend, Rutillio Grande, SJ.
Archbishop Romero received death threats throughout his time as Archbishop in response to his homilies which were shared over the radio in El Salvadorduring their bloody civil war.
Everyone listened. Even the death squads. The killings increased and so did the death threats against Romero. He made a private retreat, prepared for his death, discovered an even deeper peace, and mounted the pulpit.
- “I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, to the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: You shall not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfil an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and obey your conscience before the order of sin. In the name of God , and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise up to heaven more frantically every day, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!”
His Sunday truth telling became a subversive campaign of nonviolent disobedience. This day 33 years ago his was assassinated during mass. The Holy Spirit that you and I received gave him this courage. He had just read from John’s gospel: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains only a grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Then he preached about the need to give our lives for others as Christ did. Just as he concluded, he was shot in the heart by a man standing in the back of the church.
He stood with the poor and oppressed and denounced every act of violence, injustice and war. To the Salvadoran people, Archbishop Romero was a prophet, a martyr and a saint.
Speaking out against injustices, coming to the aid of our friends and family when they need us, acting for social change are all difficult and sometimes have high costs. Let us pray in thanksgiving for the example of our prophetic leaders. Let us pray for courage to live the Christian Gospel even when we are mocked or shunned. What might it mean for you or me to “Take up our cross and follow Christ”? Let us walk with this question and make this week HOLY!