Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Jesus was born to die for you and me. Together, let us die with Him.

Exactly 102 days ago, we celebrated Christmas, the Nativity of Our Lord. And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest.” When Jesus came into Jerusalem to die the crowds sang, “Hosanna in the highest.” The fact that these are almost identical is not a coincidence. Rather, it points to a profound truth. And the truth is this: that Jesus was born in Bethlehem so that He might die in Jerusalem. Jesus was born to die. He came into this world, He took on our humanity, so that He might humble himself and become obedient unto death, even death on a cross. And He came to die not for some abstract humanity. No, He came to die for weak, sinful, flesh-and-blood creatures like you and me.  

Jesus saw how weak and sinful we would be. He saw how we would forget Him, abandon Him, betray Him. He saw every one of our sins. And yet He died for you and me. We couldn’t handle seeing every sin we’ve committed and every sin that we will commit. It would be unendurable. We would die of fright. Imagine, then, what Jesus endured in seeing all of your sins, all of my sins, every person’s sins. Jesus saw all of that and yet He stretched out His arms, nonetheless. He allowed Himself to be nailed and pierced, nonetheless. He allowed Himself to be mocked, tortured, and killed, nonetheless. The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, translating a hymn attributed to St. Francis Xavier, put it beautifully:

Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me

Didst reach thine arms out dying,

For my sake sufferedst nails and lance,

Mocked and marred countenance,

Sorrows passing number,

Sweat and care and cumber,

Yea and death, and this for me,

And thou couldst see me sinning.

O Deus, Ego Amo Te

Jesus was born to die. And He was born to die for you and me. What can we do in return? The invitation this Holy Week is to die with Jesus. Nothing was lacking in the suffering and death of Jesus except our participation in them. We can participate in them now during these holy days. Our participation, of course, will look differently this year. It will be simpler, harder, more remote. It will look like the women from our passion narrative who, it says, were “looking on from a distance.” But, most importantly, it will look like Jesus. Like Jesus, we will be stripped—stripped of everything which we took for granted. Like Jesus, we will be pierced—pierced with a deep sense of loss and abandonment. Like Jesus, we will be emptied—emptied, unable to be filled, with the very Body and Blood which brought about our salvation.

And so perhaps this will be the best Holy Week ever. Maybe we will look like Jesus, like Christ crucified, more than ever. We call ourselves Christians. But are we willing to look like Christ? Are we willing to bear His wounds? If we are, if we are willing to participate in His suffering in death, we will surely share in His resurrection.