March 28, 2021
Palm Sunday, Year B
During this Lent, the Word of God has shown us the outline of a journey.
A journey that has “overturned” our image of God (Jn 2:13-25); which then led us to lift up our gaze to be able to recover from our mortal illness (Jn 3:14-21); and which finally, last Sunday, awakened in us attraction to the Lord Jesus, to His mystery of humiliation and elevation (Jn 12:20-33).
Now, we are at the end of Lent, and today we see Jesus entering Jerusalem, where everything will be concluded.
This is the only Eucharistic celebration in which two passages of the Gospel are read. We read the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and then we read the Passion account.
We can also consider this fact for our celebration today. To us who, like the Greeks of last Sunday’s reading, go up to Jerusalem for the feast and ask to see Jesus, the Liturgy offers both passages, just as Jesus told the Greeks about the mystery of His passion and glory.
One cannot read the entry of Jesus into the Holy City without completing and illuminating it by the Easter story, and vice versa. It is to show that Jesus does not enter the city like any king or conqueror; His glory is not like that of the powerful of the earth. His glory is that of a king who gives life, who loves His own to the end, who does not spare Himself in anything. He is a king who for His own accepts an ignominious death, convinced that this is true greatness, the real power that changes a life, that brings peace.
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the Messiah awaited by Israel. He comes riding a colt. Many people go to meet Him and recognize Him as the one who was awaited: “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mk 11:8-10).
But who is the Messiah expected for generations by the people of the covenant?
Israel received a call to live a special relationship with the Lord. And in a particular way, in the course of biblical history, three types of people emerged that embodied this call, and who helped Israel to live it in an ever more intimate and profound way. These are the kings, the priests, and the prophets.
The king was set up to guarantee the people security and peace, prosperity, and justice: this was a “good thing in the eyes of the Lord” (cf. 1 Kings 15:5), for which the king had first of all to fear God, and not put himself in His place: the only true king was always the Lord.
The priests were charged with “looking after” the relationship between God and the people, through the care of worship: presenting perfect sacrifices, the priest was admitted into God’s presence and obtained for the people His blessing and His forgiveness, the renewal of the Covenant.
And, finally, the prophets were the interpreters of the Will of God in the here and now, witnesses of a different wisdom. They were persons entirely grasped by God; usually misunderstood, and often martyred.
It is no coincidence that, in moments of crisis, these are the figures who fade away, who lose their role because of the people. An example is that of the prophet Daniel, who from the depth of the furnace confesses his own sin and then adds: “We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you” (Dn 3,38): the figures, who are at the heart of the identity of the people of Israel, have disappeared, and it is total catastrophe.
Well, at the time of Jesus the people understood that only the Messiah would have fulfilled this vocation of which all the kings, all the prophets, and all the priests had been forerunners and figures: the Messiah would inaugurate a new time, in which the God’s justice would have covered the earth, in which the covenant between God and the people would have been perfect and without rifts, in which all would have been holy.
This is how Jesus enters Jerusalem.
Like the true King, Who comes with meekness to bring peace, Who gives all of Himself to His people. Not a proud king, but a meek and humble king who comes only to save.
Like the true priest, who inaugurates the new cult, the new and eternal covenant, not offering sacrifices of animals, but offering Himself on the altar of the cross.
And finally he comes as the true prophet, the one who is always listening and who knows the will of the Father; Who announces a different logic, which is foolishness for those who do not believe, but which is life for all those who obey Him. A prophet also misunderstood and martyred, innocent and sacrificed.
Prophecy and expectation are fulfilled in Jesus, and in Him they become promises to all: because the call to be king, prophet, and priest is a vocation to a life full of love, and it is the vocation of all. It is the call of the new people who are born at the foot of the cross, where the exalted Messiah draws all to Himself (Jn 12:32).