The Passion narrative in our gospels form the oldest part of the gospels. The disciples made a record first of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Then eventually they reflected on his words and deeds, even to his infancy, as our gospels tell us.
On this day, the Church celebrates Christs’ entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery. Today is the beginning of Holy Week. The gospel today, recalls the passion and death of Jesus thus leading us to focus intently on the heart of the mystery of salvation. Matthew here, gives us a vivid representation of what really happened on that First Holy Week. He bluntly puts the betrayal, the fear and the denial of the disciples of Jesus.
Today’s gospel also shows us the mystery of dying and rising, the mystery of humiliation and exaltation, the mystery of suffering and glorification, the mystery of death in order to live eternally, the mystery of defeat which is crowned with victory.
Today’s readings also tell us of the fickleness of the crowd, shouting “Hosanna” today and “Crucify Him” on Good Friday. Here, we see also that there are many people who have taken part in the passion of Jesus, and it is not a mere coincidence that these people seem to be representing all of humanity. We have Judas Iscariot, one of his chosen disciples, who betrayed him. We have Peter, the Rock who promised not to abandon him even to death but denied him 3 times. We have the two sons of Zebedee, who with Peter, couldn’t stay awake with Jesus for an hour. We have the officers who came with Judas Iscariot (the traitor) to arrest Jesus. We have Caiaphas, the high priest, and all the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, the whole Sanhedrin, who felt that Jesus was a threat to their security and position in the society. We have Pilate who washed his hands to get out of the matter, to be indifferent somehow. We have Simon of Cyrene, who helped him carry his cross. We have the two thieves crucified beside him, one of whom humbles himself and thus exalted. We have the women of Jerusalem who were just accompanying Jesus on his way to the Cross, helplessly yet constantly, walking with him. We have Mary his mother, who stood with him, walked with him, and stayed with him at the foot of the cross. We have, the beloved disciple, who is the only one among the twelve to stay close to Jesus, to the end. And we have Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man who offered his newly- hewn tomb for Jesus to be buried there.
Each of us stands alone before Christ. Like Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Pilate’s wife, Simon the Cyrenean, the Roman Centurion, and all the others who had a role in the drama of the passion and death of Jesus, each of us must declare where we stand by our attitudes and actions. The best test of that is whether we’re faithful to Christian principles: principles of justice, of peace, of married life, of our callings, of our human existence, and principles of Love. Jesus didn’t suffer and die to exempt others from suffering and dying, but to redeem us and to show us how to suffer and die with him, so as to rise and glory in and with him at the end.
As we reflect on this holy week, let us examine ourselves in what way have we partaken in the passion of Jesus. However, we have to understand that no matter how great our sins are, no matter how bad we are in making Jesus suffer, on the cross he saved us all, he cleansed all our sinfulness. But like the thief, we have to allow Jesus do something in and for us, to acknowledge our sinfulness before him, and say to him, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”