Monday, April 02, 2007

Palm Sunday thoughts

Palm Sunday brought yet another homily on the fickle people of Jerusalem who welcomed Jesus as king one week and demanded his crucifixion the following week.

While certainly this is a good reminder to examine our conscience, are we living or denying our citizenship in the heavenly kingdom?

Yet, is it possible that this is an injustice to the memory of the good citizens who may not have understood the nature of the Messiah (the Apostles didn't, how could they?), but welcomed him none the less?

If you read the scriptural accounts, there is no explicit statement that those who called for His crucifixion from Pilate, were the same people who had welcomed him to Jerusalem as king, those few short days before.

By way of analogy, and irrespective of your politics, was not George Bush welcomed to the presidency in 2000 and again in '04, in an almost victorious messianic fervor, the friend of the unborn, the future appointer of the SC judges who would overturn RvW? Yet today, do we not hear hue and cry from all quarters, perhaps not for crucifixion, but of impeachment, a bitter and vitriolic hatred which looks forward to the day he is turned out of office?

Yet, were not the majority of this second group of that opinion prior to his election, and is this second group populated by former members of the first group? Maybe a small number, but I think not; are not most of the first group hanging their heads, much like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, thinking something like "we though this would be the one..."

No, I submit to you, according to the interpretation of St. Augustine, that in the large city of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, there was a vocal population that hated Jesus when he rode into town, and before that vitriolic crowd those who had welcomed him as king melted away, as did all but one of the apostles. Jerusalem was big enough to have two such parties, just as we see in US politics.

I think it good that we examine our own conscience, and ask, as Elijah did, are we double minded? Do we say the creed, in which we affirm that we believe the Holy Catholic Church but not accept what that same Holy Catholic Church has to say with divine authority? This is a good and salutary examination, but I fear we go to far to cast such horrid aspersions on those who welcomed Jesus as king on that first "Palm Sunday."


  1. This theme of the people of Jerusalem turning on Jesus is one I've heard time and again before, and it ran in the back of my mind all the time we were rehearsing for Palm Sunday, and our conversation on this subject yesterday brought it to the front of my mind. All the while we rehearsed, I kept wondering why, if it's true, we would be celebrating an act of wanton hypocrisy -- right down to echoing, over and over again, the lying hosannas.

  2. Same thought struck me during the homily. The sector of people who would have been there on the road to Jerusalem were, doubtlessly, for the most part, a different group than the power elite block who called for Jesus' death...There were probably some folks who were mad that Jesus wasn't going to be the worldly Messiah who was going to smite the heathen, kick the Romans out and bring down the corrupt Sadducees in charge of the High Priest position, but I suspect their numbers were few.

    Jerusalem at the Passover was a huge city. The mount of Olives would have been covered with tents of people camping out for the feast, everybody who had any space to rent no doubt rented it out, and it is a logical fallacy to think of the people of Jerusalem to be a homogenous crowd.

    And yet, it has some symbolic value for us to simplify it that way, because each and every one of us knows how often we have cheered the Lord, and then turned around and betrayed him in our actions, our thoughts and our choices, which is probably why the image persists today -- because we know that even if the people of Jerusalem didn't do it, we know very well in our heart of hearts, we do it far more than we really want to admit to it.