Entry into the City, Swanson 2012, Swanson Studio.

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The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.”    Matthew 21:8-9.

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Those words above are so familiar, said at every Mass as the main part of the celebration begins with the “Holy, Holy…” Today’s preliminary gospel states that these words were being shouted out by an ecstatic crowd welcoming Jesus as the Messiah into the city of Jerusalem. His reputation had preceded him, especially with the supreme miracle recorded in last week’s gospel, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Clearly there was no doubt that, at last, the Messiah, promised of the ages, had come. And here he was, entering the holy city. Alleluia, alleluia! So now, in the minds all those those greeting him, it was simply a matter of time – hours – before he summoned them all to arms to conquer the Roman army, cast out the unclean pagans and, at long last, reestablish the kingdom of David.

Except, of course, he didn’t.

Jesus was much more the Suffering Servant of the prophet Isaiah than the all-conquering descendant of King David. He knew, of course, that the overwhelming idea of the time was that the Messiah would be the one to fight the enemy Roman occupiers, defeat them and rule as king, as David had hundreds of years earlier. As those critical hours became days, the overwhelming optimism of the crowds metastasized into impatience, anger, fury and ultimately into murderous hatred. So bitter was the disappointment in this man that within a week this acclaimed Son of David was the accursed father of lies. In their eyes he had deceived them ; his ministry of healing, forgiveness and peace was utterly forgotten as it clashed with their vision of military conquest, victory and glory. Jesus had tried time and again to prepare his true followers for this moment, but they were silent now, overwhelmed by the hatred that consumed all those around them and perhaps themselves torn between Jesus’ message and their own longing for the all-conquering messiah. He stood alone as the wave of loathing swept upon him. His punishment for that was equally overwhelming. This man suffered catastrophic pain and ignominy. No-one stood up for him. As Isaiah said, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (53:5). This was the man by whose loving hand we are promised eternal happiness. He suffered all this willingly, even forgiving not only those who had done that to him, but also the thief alongside whom he was crucified. He carried not a trace of bitterness or revenge. He accepted everything that was thrown at him rather than recant a single word of his teaching.  In that way he fulfilled his mission, his vocation, to show us that no matter what comes our way, he is there beside us, holding us up, caring for us: his suffering and passion showed us that he meant every word of his teaching. He suffered all that for us, that we might believe. What more proof could anyone ask of this man? It was for each and every single one of us that he was prepared to suffer this way. What more proof would anyone need? And how are we to thank him for it this Passiontide? What can we do to demonstrate our thanks and gratitude? How can we become true companions with such a person as this, our Savior?

Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”), Castrillo 2020, Castrillo Original Works.

Now, I have a Lenten exercise where I am asking you to participate. I have received very few reactions to this webpage over the last few years, so I am in the dark as to how it is received. Please let me know what you appreciate about this webpage and what annoys you about it. Are there any recommendations you could make? Please send your responses (and I DO ask you to respond) to:

Many thanks.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.