PALM SUNDAY (A)
(Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14 – 27:66)
In Matthew’s presentation of the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ we heard some words that are not to be found in the other Gospel accounts:
Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon My Father and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels? But then, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?"
Those words show us that Jesus was indeed, deliberately living His life ‘according to the Scriptures’, as St. Paul puts it, no matter what the cost:
I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Jesus Himself confirmed this explicitly when, after His Resurrection, He appeared to two of His former followers on their way to Emmaus, and said to them:
“Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)
Final confirmation that the Scriptures are essential for the fullness of our understanding of Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection was most emphatically underlined when the Risen Lord appeared to the assembly of ‘the eleven and those with them’ in Jerusalem where, having first of all needed to convince them of the physical reality of His bodily appearance, He then sought to confirm their right understanding of Him in His resurrection by saying:
These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Lk. 24:44-45)
Now the God and Father Who sent Jesus had prepared Israel, for some 1500 years through inspired prophets and the Scriptures, to become His Chosen People: as it were, a fitting ‘seed-bed’ where His Son might strike root, and a people able to recognize, to appreciate, and to welcome Him when – become Son of Man -- He was publicly manifested as Israel and mankind’s Saviour and Redeemer.
Our modern age, dominated and dazzled by science and its achievements, wants to approach Jesus in an objective manner, seeking to critically examine and test whatever words or actions of His it might feel inclined to investigate, and then to formulate and pronounce thereon a merely rational judgment: a judgment invalidated not so much by its rationality – because reason, after all, is God’s great gift to human kind – but by its impersonal character, both on the part of the investigators who in no way seek personal communion with Jesus, and secondly, with regard to their attitude to Jesus Himself Whom they regard merely and exclusively as an object for scientific study and critical evaluation, not as One, whose divine Personality and human perfection remain unapproachably mysterious until they are acknowledged with humility and sought-after in prayer.
The whole purpose of the Jewish Scriptures was, as I have said, to prepare for and lead to Israel’s promised Messiah, the Son of God and Saviour of mankind; and they continue to serve a like purpose today. For us Christians, the Old Testament is still alive as a channel of God’s grace; it is replete with divine treasures -- no longer indeed to be found in its legal prescriptions -- but in its divine portrayal and foreshadowing of God ever-and-increasingly-active among men for their salvation, together with its moral discipline and spiritual teaching for the gradual development of believers seeking guidance in their relationship with God. The Spirit of God -- given provisionally and proleptically to Israel -- is now given Personally in the name of Jesus and with supreme fullness to Mother Church, and through her to all the faithful by her proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel and her celebration and ministration of the sacraments of the glorified Jesus.
A meeting between God and man demands of us a willingness to open ourselves up to Him, and a preparedness to relinquish self in order to receive fully His gifts and graces. Jesus, objectively observed and interpreted according to the narrow limits of our imperfect rationality and individual sinfulness, can never even be conceived let alone embraced in the beauty of His human fullness and the wonder of His divine goodness. The real, true, and saving Jesus can only be ardently desired in prayer, humbly sought-for with patience in the Scriptures and the Faith proclaimed by Mother Church, before being lovingly embraced in the Eucharist, by those who, under the guidance of the Spirit, are seeking New Life, that is forgiveness, redemption, and fulfilment in Jesus through the total gift of self to Him.
On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed: "Let anyone who thirsts come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture says, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." He said this in reference to the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive. (John 7:37-39).
Dear People of God, consider closely what sort of meeting you are seeking to set up with Jesus this Easter. If you desire it to be a personal encounter of giving and receiving involving both heart and mind, then pray that with Mary’s help you may learn to recognize Jesus in the swaddling clothes of the Scriptures -- foreshadowing and looking for Him in the Old, adoring and delighting in Him in the New – and that you may thus be enabled to offer your gift of self, humbly and fully, to Him in the Eucharist, and also to allow His return Gift of the Spirit so to possess and rule you as to become your deepest joy and peace, the abiding strength and hope of your life.