By Dean Louis Bascon
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.' "
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?" They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!"
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
"Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate.
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.
The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of."
But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
"Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
"What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them.
"Crucify him!" they shouted.
"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!"
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah."
One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"
The liturgy of Palm Sunday presents to us two Gospel narratives. In the first narrative, we commemorate that joyful and triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the city where He's destined to die. In the second, we recall Jesus' passion and death which He endured with submission and an amazing silence which would surprise just anyone. The two, obviously, are connected, as the first leads to the events of the second.
Jesus entered Jerusalem because He knew He had to. He knew the physical and emotional pain that He would undergo in that city. Nevertheless, He went there for His hour had come. It was precisely for this moment that He was sent to this world. It is His mission to suffer and die, in obedience to the Father (cf. Phil 2:8). He never lost sight of this heavenly mandate.
The people who joyously welcomed Jesus in Jerusalem recognized Him as a holy man. They were enlightened enough to know that Jesus comes in the name of the Lord and that the Kingdom of David is being re-established (cf. Mk 11:9-10) . They recognized the "things above", the things which were of heaven. They knew that God was at work in their midst in the person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Reading the second Gospel passage, we hear these same people who shouted, "Hosanna!", now shouting, "Crucify him!" This they did because they were forced, bribed even, by their religious leaders. They were easily influenced by the world in which they live, by money and by the people around them. They, therefore, lost sight of the marvels that God has revealed to them when they were welcoming Jesus. Because of the power of this earth over them, they failed to give value to the heavenly things.
Jesus, on the other hand, never lost sight of the heavenly things. In fact, He was deprived all earthly comforts and pleasures in His passion. He was deprived sleep, the company of His friends, and many more until He was finally deprived His life. This proves that Jesus gives more value to what is spiritual than to what is material. In experiencing all these privations, He redeemed the world.
This Holy Week, we are once again challenged to give value to what is holy, to what is heavenly. This week is not an opportunity to party at Boracay, as our showbiz icons do. It is an opportunity which the Church gives us to reflect on and recognize the marvels that God has done and is doing for our redemption.
The great liturgies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday until Easter Sunday give us a glimpse of what happened to Jesus during the last hours of His life until His resurrection. These liturgies put us into that drama and makes us part of it. I recommend you participate in these liturgical services. I also suggest reflecting on the Word of God, especially on the Passion narratives.
May this Holy Week be "truly holy" for all of us. May it not be another holiday that will just pass by, leaving us unchanged. May the drama of Holy Week make our hearts cry in appreciation of the great deeds God has done, all for us sinners.
Have a "truly holy" Holy Week!