After telling a parable to the crowd at Jericho, Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’" So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord needs it." Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Today, Christians kick off the holiest season in their Liturgical Calendar. We have prepared ourselves over the last few weeks to celebrate this week with much more reverence and devotion. However we have to ask ourselves one question today. Is there something called Holiest week in Christian life? If there is, then we have missed the whole point of Christ’s teachings. Here is why.
These days you can get all kinds of stuff from catalogues. Sams club catalogue sells even airplanes in them. Some others sell live animals such as dogs, cats, camels and donkeys. Beth Warpmaeker a pastor in Houston speaks of her mother when she was young. Her mother saw this cute looking donkey with a red cart in its back in a Sears’s catalogue. She pleaded with her father to get it for her and he obliged. When the donkey arrived, it was not small, cute or clean. Above all it was stubborn. Donkeys are known for their stubbornness.
Here Jesus is choosing this donkey or colt to ride on. May be Jesus is choosing a little donkey to fulfill the prophecy in Zachariah 9: 9
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
May be it is to remind us what we all can be one day, given the grace of God, carriers of God in spite of all our stubbornness and un-cleanliness, just like the little left out donkey that disciples got for Jesus.
I have seen dead donkeys on the road hit by the truck drivers. It is a kind of fun for those guys in the northern part of India. The reason they hit these donkeys are because they are stubborn and will not move at the sound of the horn. They are not clean or cute. They don’t sound great. Their bray makes a child wake up rather than put to sleep. But once you get them going they could be hard working and even for long hours.
We all some way or another behave sometimes like donkeys. We are many times hard and stubborn, but at times work very hard and long. But the good news is; we all have the potential to be the carriers of God like this little donkey, and St. Christopher who carried Jesus all over the place according to legends. Why do we become hard and stubborn, tough to live with? Here is an insight.
The famous book ‘The Road Less Travelled’ starts with a very small sentence. “Life is difficult”. I don’t think I need to tell you about it. Today we celebrate Passion Sunday not just palm Sunday, to acknowledge the reality of life, like the author says, that life is filled with unparalleled sufferings that causes difficulties for all who are living. Without some toughness and stubbornness we cannot face the challenges of life easily.
People have told me over and over that they don’t like Lent. I don’t either. I don’t think we have an option about it. Do we have an option about our suffering? Do we have an option about our sickness or hard labor? Lent is not optional to anyone. I would like to see one person who chose a sickness to live with over happy and healthy heart. Lent started long before Christ came into the world. Christ brought meaning to it.
Suffering is not any more human tragedy. It is a call for compassionate living. It calls for journeying together. Celebration of Passion of Christ calls for the living of the Drama of Salvation, which is the cohabitation of the lion and the lamb. It is a positive tension between the Might and Meekness of God and the aggressiveness and gentleness of world.
Lent and Holy Week are all an intentional acknowledgement of what we are going through in life and walking the journey of suffering with others we care about. It is not optional for Catholics or Protestants or Hindus or Muslims.
It is a season of awareness of one’s own fragility. It is season when we take our vulnerability and that of others seriously and walk with them.
People have asked me this question, why should we have soup suppers? Why should we focus on things that are difficult during Lent? It is depressing and sometimes hard to get through in this holiest season.
I will address it with a little help from Martin Luther.
"For what is good for us is hidden, and that so deeply that it is hidden under its opposite. Thus our life is hidden under death, love for ourselves under hate for ourselves … salvation under damnation, heaven under hell … And universally our every assertion of anything good is hidden under the denial of it, so that faith may have its place in God, who is a negative essence and goodness and wisdom and righteousness, who cannot be touched except by the negation of all our affirmations."
This simply means that we are called and empowered to negate death, hatred, damnation and hell so that we can claim life, love, salvation and heaven which are the essences of God.
What is Holy Week after all?
For us it has to be a conscious witnessing of God’s might and God’s weakness. It is the time of the reenactment of the drama of Salvation. It is the triumphant entry of God into the human world of suffering. Holy Week is the celebration of life over suffering and death. Can anyone not participate in it?