Palm Sunday 2020
Jerusalem, April 5, 2020
Today we have not celebrated the solemn and beautiful entrance of Jesus to the city of Jerusalem like every year, with faithful from all the parishes of the diocese and with pilgrims from all over the world.
We have not raised our palms and olive branches to cry out “Hosanna” to our King, Jesus the Christ. The streets that would have been full of people and songs, hymns and the sound of bagpipes on this day are empty and silent.
What is the Lord saying to us? Why all this? What can we do in these dramatic moments for the life of the world and ours?
The people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus with enthusiasm, recognizing him as King, as the awaited Messiah, as the one who would finally accept their prayers.
But Jesus knows and the Gospel tells us that nothing is so simple. We know that He came to Jerusalem, not to be on the throne like David, but to be put to death. The meaning that Jesus attributes to his “triumphal entry” is different from the meaning that the people of Jerusalem saw in it. Perhaps this is the lesson that Jesus wants to teach us today. We turn to God when there is something that harms us. When we are in trouble, suddenly we all want to ask big and difficult questions.
In other words, we want Jesus to become the type of king and messiah who solves our problems: peace, work, the lives of children or parents, in short, help in the difficult situation in which we find ourselves. We wish that He would save us from the Corona Virus, that everything returns to the way we were before…
Of course, we know that Jesus answers our prayers and does not pretend that our motives are pure. He came to seek and save the lost. It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.
However, at the same time, Jesus responds in His own way. Precisely because Jesus says “yes” to our deepest desires, He will have to say “no” to our immediate desires.
The people of Jerusalem wanted a prophet, but this prophet would have told them that their city was under the imminent judgment of God. They wanted a Messiah, but this one would be enthroned on a pagan cross. They wanted to be saved from evil and oppression, but Jesus would save them from evil in all its depth, not only from the evil of the Roman occupation and exploitation by the rich.
The story of the grand entrance to Jerusalem, therefore, is a lesson on the discrepancy between our expectations and God’s response.
The crowd will be disappointed, because Jesus will not respond to their expectations of immediate salvation. Deep down it will not be like this: Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is truly the moment when salvation is being born. The “Hosannas” were justified, even if not for the reasons that the Jerusalemites had supposed. Learning this lesson is taking a big step towards true Christian faith.
Perhaps we too are disappointed, because our prayers are not listened to, our expectations remain without an apparent response. It seems that God is not listening to us. Let’s recognize it: we are still far from this simple and pure faith, the faith of the poor. We would like, we want our life to change, here and now, not in a generic future or in the afterlife. We want an almighty and strong God; we want to have faith in a God who gives us certainties and security. That reassures us in this sea of fears and uncertainties in which we now find ourselves.
However, the Gospel tells us that the Christian faith is based on hope and love, not on certainty. He won’t solve all our problems, He won’t give us all the certainties that our human nature needs, but He won’t leave us alone. We know He loves us.
As He passed, the crowd spread their cloaks at Jesus’ feet and welcomed Him with the few olive branches and palms they could get. Despite our effort to understand, then, we also put before our Messiah what little we have, our prayers, our needs, our need for help, our tears, our thirst for Him and His word of consolation. We know we need to purify our intentions, and we also ask Him for this grace, to understand what we really need. And here, today, despite everything, at the gates of His and our city, we declare that we really want to welcome Him as our King and Messiah, and to follow Him on His way to His throne, the cross. But we also ask Him to give us the strength necessary to carry it with His own, fruitful love.