Palm Sunday and the science of the Cross
Passion Sunday of the Lord marks the beginning of the greatest week of the Liturgical Calendar – the Holy Week, which is the centrepiece of the Lenten Season. It is a unique celebration that commences, commemorates and dramatizes two prominent aspects of Jesus’ life: His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the Paschal Mystery that is the suffering, death, burial and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ all geared toward our redemption and salvation. What is the significance of these Jesus’ salvific events? This brief but insightful introduction excellently reveals clearly the great import of the celebration of the Passion Sunday of the Lord Jesus and we are to respond to it by our active participation and above all be dispose to be united with the Lord in His suffering on the cross. There is the need to dig deep into this mystery in order to comprehend the science of the cross.
From the foregoing, it is completely clear that we are called to remember and celebrate the highest degree of love so lavished on us by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Although, He entered Jerusalem and was accorded a first class reception (meant for Kings), hence with palm fronds the Jews hailed Him, “Hossana to the Son of David!” But come Good Friday in the same city the same crowd will rather sing in another tune, “Let Him be crucified!”
We have so much to learn from the Life of Jesus. The first is that life is a mystery. The people who celebrate you to the top of the mountain are the same people that will drag you to the valley. So do not place your trust in man but absolutely rest it on God. Secondly, the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem reveals His humanity while His passion unveils His divinity. Let us not just welcome His humanity but also make conscious effort to discover and appreciate His divinity. His humanity and divinity hypostatically demonstrate His sincere and rich love for us.
The passion of Jesus reveals the science of the cross according to Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene: “It teaches us in a concrete way that in the Christian life we must be able to accept suffering for the love of God. The cross theologically means suffering. And suffering is the disagreeable feeling which we experience when something – a situation, a circumstance, – does not correspond to our inclinations, our needs, or our hopes, which does not harmonise with them or gratify them, but on the contrary, contradicts and opposes them.” This is hard for us because our nature prefers pleasure that sometimes leads to hedonism. To worsen the matter our society is pleasure driven and discussions that centre on the cross make no sense! We are in a society that celebrates absolute freedom and sings songs in praise of pleasure. This kind of understanding will not lead us to appreciate the event of Good Friday because it is the triumph of the cross and the change in the orientation about the cross. Again, suffering at this level is seen as complete evil and cannot be agreeable.
By and large, there is a sense in the cross of Jesus. It is pertinent to note that humankind by Divine plan was not meant to experience suffering. “God willed to exempt our first parents from it by their preternatural gifts; but through sin, these gifts were lost forever, and suffering inevitably enters our life.” It follows that the gamut of suffering which has entered our life and is harassing us because of the outcome of Original sin and actual sins. However, God is goodness par excellence and would not allow humankind to remain in bondage and upon the fault of humankind, He manifests His unending love. To enable us appreciate the degree of His love for us, He had to employ the corollary of sin. “What was so decisive about what happened on the cross to justify (the event of the cross)?” What happened was that God finally destroyed sin, but without destroying the freedom that produced it. He overcame sin, not by destroying it with his almighty power or driving it out of His kingdom, but by taking it upon Himself, in Christ, and suffering the consequences. He overcame evil with good, which is the same as saying He overcame hatred with love, rebellion with obedience, violence with meekness, falsehood with truth. ‘He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross’ (1Pet. 2:24) He has freed us for all time.
Going back to the Old Testament and the genesis of the need for the cross of Jesus, Yahweh God settled man in the Garden of Eden and commanded him, “You are free to eat of all the trees in the garden. But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat; for, the day you eat of that, you are doomed to die.” (Gen. 2:16 &17). That tree of life never saw the light of the day as man by his own volition destroyed it. Nevertheless, the creature cannot be more than the creator. The creator had a plan and that plan must be brought to fruition. Otherwise, He is not omnipotent and omniscient. Therefore, that tree of life must be re-planted for it to exercise its purpose. This being so, the tree of life in the garden was a prefigurement of the cross of Jesus. And in the fullness of time Christ came and replaced the lost or stolen tree of life via the wood of the cross. Hence, the Church chants: O happy fault! Why? “The answer lies in the infinite love of God which transforms everything and draws from the double evil of sin and suffering the great good of the redemption of the human race.” – Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene
What are we to do? “To them that love God, all things work together unto good” (Rom 8:28). The science of the cross of Jesus translated in our life’s situations, reveals the fact that pain, physical suffering, cold, illness, hunger, poverty and other inconveniencies cannot make sense or would remain unless if viewed from a human point of view but “Every kind of suffering can be made conformable to the highest ideals of the Christian: eternal salvation, sanctity, the glory of God, the good of the souls” if interpreted and understood supernaturally. Jesus has transformed suffering by the value His passion has conferred on it. Above all, it was after His passion that He rose from the dead. Accordingly, Jesus foretells His death and subsequent glorification by the statement that comes from the passage that narrates His entrance into Jerusalem – “In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.” (John. 12:24). Loves begets love, thus let us love Him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might, for He worth and deserves it. So, as authentic disciples let us not join the Jewish crowd to say, “Let Him be crucified… And…His blood be on us and on our children” (Mt 27:23 & 25). Hossana Filio ∆avid!
O Jesus Crucified, teach us the science of the cross; make us understand the value of suffering.