Irish Dominican Church, Tralee, Co Kerry
Isn't it strange that this Sunday at Mass we read about the Passion of Christ even though today is Palm Sunday- the day, not of Jesus' Passion- but his entry into Jerusalem with the laying out of Palms? The Readings, long though they may be, begins Holy Week with the Passion of Christ, even as today is about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, with throngs of spectators laying out Palm leaves for Him. In this- we are reminded how these same crowds that are there celebrating Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem- will not be there for Jesus when he is arrested, scourged, and crucified.
But it was never going to be any other way. Because they were never going to save Jesus in his darkest hour. It was Jesus who has come to save them- and us- in our darkest hour. Jesus is, after all, the light of the world. He has come to bring light to the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. As we will see this Holy Week- where there is death- there will be resurrection. For the crowds cheering Jesus on as he enters Jerusalem- he has come to save them- just not in the way that they expect. It is their sins He will carry with him as He carries His Cross to Calvary. It is their weaknesses, and their struggles that he carries though the streets of Jerusalem, as he drags His Cross through the streets.
Consider one man mentioned in the readings. Simon of Cyrene. We know of him- He is the man who helps Jesus carry His Cross to Calvary. He does so reluctantly. And yet, what Simon does not at first understand- is that the Cross that Jesus carries through those streets- does not truly belong to Jesus, it belongs to Simon of Cyrene- and to us. It belongs too, to us- for that Cross Jesus carries represents our crosses, and our sins. Jesus Himself never sinned- He is freely choosing to take our crosses upon Himself.
We are all like Simon of Cyrene. We each have our own crosses- and here in Holy week- we look to the Passion of Christ. We look to Jesus carrying those crosses of ours- and our sins- most importantly- and offering Himself up on the Cross for us. But this image of Simon of Cyrene is worth pondering on. We all have crosses in life- but those moments in which Simon is shouldering that cross- they changed him. They were moments of personal encounter with Jesus, with God. Of where God entered into Simon's life, leaving him forever changed. This is the God that we believe in- a God who enters into every part of our lives. He becomes flesh and blood like you and me- and in doing so- sanctifies us- makes us able to share in God's own life.
Some religions and spiritualities- many actually- emphasize the need for the spirit to escape from the burden of the flesh- not Chrsitianity. We are not seeking some sort of 'enlightenment', not looking to escape this world or this body- Instead- God had created it all, and God has said creation is good. God has loved it, in and through all of our imperfection. God has not given up on us. God has entered our world, into our very darkness itself, and become as we are. A God who reigns from heaven yes. But also a God who is your brother shouldering your crosses. Such is what Simon of Cyrene shows us in today's readings. What did Simon see as he was struggling to carry that Cross? Did he look into Jesus' eyes, his beaten and bruised face, and see the face of God? And did he then realise that there are no limits to what God would do out of love for us?
Today we mark the day Jesus enters Jerusalem. He enters the city with crowds, but he will leave this city alone, as he marches along the streets less than a week later towards Calvary to be crucified. That will be his real victory procession- the way of the Cross. The way of the Cross is God saying ‘Now I am human like you, and your struggles are mine. Embrace me, carry that cross with me, not for me, and let me lead you towards resurrection and the Joy of friendship with God.
Written by Fr Daragh