Today our Lord Jesus Christ enters into Jerusalem, hailed as the King of Israel. A great multitude of people greet Him with palm branches and cry out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
All of Jerusalem turns out to greet their Messiah, an event which had been prophesied and anticipated for many ages. Our Lord had been ministering to the people: teaching, healing, and performing miracles of compassionate love for three years. His fame and the news of His miracles had spread far and wide, and now, with His entry into Jerusalem, the people of Israel were taken up with enthusiasm that their King had arrived and that the time of their triumph would soon be inaugurated.
These people were expecting Christ to reign as an earthly king… that the time was at hand when Israel would overthrow the tyranny of Rome - and Jesus Christ, one of their own, would sit on the throne of Israel as their king. Their reading of the prophecies was worldly and even the disciples of the Lord continued to misunderstand the otherworldly message of Christ.
Imagine how shocked and disillusioned they all must have been when Christ was arrested, mocked and scourged, and paraded through the streets of Jerusalem as a common criminal to then be crucified amid thieves. This was an earth shattering and soul shattering event!
The people of Jerusalem expected Christ to lead them into victory… how disappointed and bitter they became when He instead accepted and embraced His suffering and death. Within less than a week the people went from shouting ‘Hosanna!’ to shouting ‘Crucify Him!’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… what about us? What are our expectations of God? Do we approach God with expectations of victory – that all of our prayers will be answered according to our will, that God will bless us with health and wealth and an easy life? And when things do not go our way, as they inevitably will… when troubles overwhelm us, when our health fails us, when sin continually defeats us… do our cries shift from praise of God to doubting Him or even cursing Him? Do we find ourselves disappointed in God?
What do we expect from God? This is a serious question and one that deserves our attention…
So often we behave as though we expect God to be our good luck charm and our wishing well. If I say my prayers and keep my fast and follow all the rules, then God will bless me with everything I need and ask for.
Or perhaps we behave as though we expect God’s wrath and punishment at any moment. If I say my prayers and keep my fast and follow all the rules, then God will spare me from His vengeance upon mankind.
If the primary motivation of our Christian life is based on fear, or on the expectation of reward - we are missing the mark and missing the experience of the true depths and joys of the life in Christ.
From the creation of the world; to His incarnation and mission of preaching, healing, and bestowing grace upon mankind; to His sufferings and death upon a cross, and His glorious resurrection and ascension into Heaven; to His establishment of His Holy Church wherein all the grace of God is bestowed upon mankind… The consistent activity and purpose of our Lord has been His self-giving generosity of love upon mankind.
Brothers and sisters in Christ… this is our God! A God Who loves us so completely that He lays down His life for us! A God Who knows that true and eternal love is not born from fear of punishment or from hope of reward, but is born from self-emptying generosity of heart and soul.
This is what we may expect from God… self-emptying generosity of love. And this must be our gift and our approach to God… a self-emptying generosity of love for Him. And with this we may rejoice no matter what comes our way… in good times and bad times we may live in the context and under the loving care of God.
Christ our Lord enters today into Jerusalem. May Christ our Lord enter also today into our heart! Let us greet Him with honor and reverence. Let us greet Him with the understanding of His true purpose – the restoration and healing of our soul.
My dear brothers and sisters… we enter now into the sacred days of Holy Week. Let us watch and pray. One of the most heartbreaking scenes in all of the Gospels is in the Garden of Gethsemene when Christ asks His disciples to stay awake with Him in His hour of sorrow. And yet, the disciples succumb to sleep. Christ has prayed in agony and returns to His disciples to find them asleep. ‘Could you not watch one hour?’ He pleads… How sad and how it pierces our own heart… for don’t we find ourselves also unable to stay spiritually awake and to be with Christ in these days of His sufferings?
Let us be with Him as He endures the arrest, the trial, the mockings, and His ultimate sacrifice. If we will stay spiritually awake and immerse ourselves in these events of Holy Week, our joy in greeting the news of Christ’s glorious resurrection will be all the more bright and radiant.
May God give us the strength and attention to watch and pray, that we may be with Him this week in His sorrows as we await the joyful news of our Lord’s resurrection in just one week’s time.