Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our procession with palms recalled for us that Jesus was hailed as king. We know the leaders of those who hailed him considered Jesus unworthy of any kingdom, and soon would have their way. It was a trumped up affair, to be sure. Indeed, in the overreaching divine plan, Jesus’ fall from human charm had to take place. That divine it must take place will always remain a mystery, and I don’t want to attempt to resolve what I nor any human cannot resolve.
Instead, as we inaugurate this Great Week, I’d ask us to consider our own inclinations to hail Jesus as king one moment then turn our backs on Jesus in another. We easily deny, or at least ignore, the one we just hailed as blessed and approaching in the name of the Lord.
Good people like you and me do that all the time. Our humanity is imperfect. We don’t always follow our deep desires. We need Jesus’ help. During his ministry Jesus helped his disciples understand one of his parables, the sower and seed. Jesus explained that seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away./1/
That becomes clear in this, our Great Week. Jesus did not fall away. Jesus was equally human and equally divine. That complete combination embarrasses us. As St. Augustine noted, “we hesitate” around Jesus’ humanity. “It is as though we were doing him an injustice” if we consider him equally human as well as divine; “we are usually at a loss and try to change the meaning.”/2/ The meaning is that Jesus did not dissemble nor dissolve in the face of his sharpest tribulation and persecution.
To admire that is not enough. Before he discovered his true self Peter admired Jesus, even acknowledged him as Messiah and Son of God. He also denied having anything to do with Jesus in the high priest’s courtyard. Peter demonstrated that admiration isn’t enough when it involves truth and love. Peter’s bitter tears after he denied Jesus witness that he did love Jesus, his Truth; and Risen Jesus, confirming Peter as the one who would strengthen his brothers, verified that.
Good people like you and me can take heart from Peter. Our human nature is imperfect, but Jesus and his risen life grace it when we acknowledge our weakness. Peter testifies that grace does not eliminate our weakness. Graced weakness is stronger and more resilient than we could ever be on our own. Our weakness invites us to follow Jesus not admire him.
A Danish philosopher, was very concrete about this.
If you have any knowledge at all of human nature [he wrote], you know that those who only admire the truth will, when danger appears, become traitors. The admirer is infatuated with the false security of greatness; but if there is any inconvenience or trouble, he pulls back. Admiring the truth, instead of following it, is just as dubious a fire as the fire of erotic love, which at the turn of the hand can be changed into exactly the opposite, to hate, jealousy, and revenge. Christ, however, never asked for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. He consistently spoke of “followers” and “disciples.”/3/Our Great Week, Holy Week, affords us opportunities to follow Jesus more closely, to stand by him in his suffering and death, and to consider how he suffers all of this for my sins and for my salvation./4/ In your daily 15 minutes this week be with Jesus. Ask Peter to stand with you. As you are with him notice your reactions. Do you pull back? Or do you draw nearer to Jesus, whom everyone fled save his mother and beloved disciple? Do not be embarrassed. Above all don’t change any meaning--of Jesus, his passion or yours, or your imperfect discipleship. Let Jesus be your Truth and resolve to love him more deeply and follow him more closely. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which reminds us to begin and to continue loving Jesus in each other and in those who offend us.
/1/ Matthew 13. 20-21.
/2/ Commentary on Psalm 85, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol 2, pp. 367.
/3/* Soren Kierkegaard at www.bruderhof.com
/4/ St. Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises .
Wiki-image of palms and flowers by Aneta S. is used under Creative Commons AttributionShareAlike 2.5. Wiki-image of a Passion Sunday procession is in the public domain.