Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek,
and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. - Zechariah 9:9
Our Holy Week begins in the narthex with the Gospel of Matthew and a scene prophesied by Zechariah (or ‘deutero-Zechariah’) around 520 BC. What kind of king is this, who rides on a humble donkey? Something different is about to occur. Our Pope, Benedict XVI, writes of this in his new book, “Jesus of Nazareth (Part II), Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection”:
He is a king who destroys the weapons of war, a king of peace and a king of simplicity, a king of the poor. …through this anchoring of the text in Zechariah 9:9, a “Zealot” exegesis of the kingdom is excluded: Jesus is not building on violence; he is not instigating a military revolt against Rome. His power is of another kind: it is in God’s poverty, God’s peace, that he identifies the only power that can redeem. (pp. 4, 5)
Benedict goes on to describe the throng of pilgrims that Jesus had joined ever since Jericho, where he had healed Bartimaeus. The song “Blessed is he who enters in the name of the Lord!” was part of the ‘pilgrim liturgy’. For those who have made a pilgrimage before, often there are traditional songs, prayers, and readings that accompany one, either on the bus or on the grounds of the pilgrimage site. These pilgrims coming for Passover had their own rituals too, including the blessing as they arrived at the temple, “We bless you from the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 118) I’m reminded of the wonder and awe of seeing St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, on a recent pilgrimage. There is a thrill to be at the heart of our Catholic faith and all that is related to the witness of the apostles.
Our professor Pope, always the teacher, takes advantage of this text to condemn violent sectarianism:
The cruel consequences of religiously motivated violence are only too evident to us all. Violence does not build up the kingdom of God, the kingdom of humanity. On the contrary, it is a favorite instrument of the Antichrist, however idealistic its religious motivation may be. It serves, not humanity, but inhumanity. ...No; violent revolution, killing others in God’s name, was not his [Jesus’] way. (15)
Where is this donkey, this ‘animal of the poor’, leading Jesus? It is leading Him to His Passion, to His great kenosis, His self-giving, to create a ‘house of prayer for all peoples’. Benedict writes of the ascent to Jerusalem, literally from below sea level in Galilee to now 2500 feet above, and its purpose:
The ultimate goal of Jesus’ “ascent” is his self-offering on the Cross, which supplants the old sacrifices; it is the ascent that the Letter to the Hebrews describes as going up, not to a sanctuary made by human hands, but to heaven itself, into the presence of God (9:24). This ascent into God’s presence leads via the Cross- it is the ascent toward “loving to the end” (cf.Jn13:1), which is the real mountain of God. (2)
Our liturgies this coming Holy Week draw us into the reality of Jesus’ experience of His last week of human life. If you were living in Jerusalem 2000 years ago would you take time to be with Jesus? If He invited you to join Him at the Last Supper, would you take the time to be with Him and the apostles? If you knew He was being driven and beaten, along SE 192nd St. and would be crucified on St. Stephen’s property, would you come to console Him, to pray for Him, to be with Him in His hour? Would you go to the tomb with Mary of Magdala with spices and perfume to anoint His Body? He has invited you to join Him in this Holy Week 2011. May it be the best week of your life.
“Will you not watch one hour with me?”
- ▼ April (4)