A Reflection on Mt 26:14-27:66
By Fr. DJ Garcia, CJM
“Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest,“ the people cried out as they wave branches welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem. We begin Holy Week commemorating this triumphant entry of Jesus as king with the tradition of waving palms. But today’s Palm Sunday (and the rest of Holu Week) is different, as we all know, for there will be no mass gatherings which normally characterize the festivities of the week. Most of us will be glued to our televisions, computers, cellphones to participate virtually in the liturgical celebrations. Blessing of palms will mostly be done online, still with the ardent desire to welcome Jesus as he was welcomed to Jerusalem more than two thousand years ago.
“Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest,“.… these words have found its way into our liturgy in the Sanctus as part of the Eucharistic Prayer. Whenever we acclaim Hosanna, we express our praise and joy, and rightly so for Hosanna is an exclamation of such as we all know it. But hosanna in its original meaning meant something else.
It is a plea for deliverance. It comes from the two Hebrew words hoshsia na… meaning “Please save us” From then its meaning evolved to a confident cry that salvation has come. Much later on, in liturgical usage it became an expression of praise, adoration and joy.
For the Jews welcoming Jesus, their “hosanna” was a plea to liberate them from the Roman occupation and at the same a jubilant praise for their imminent salvation has come in this “Son of David” riding on an ass. Thus, this was a statement of who Jesus is for them--- the Messiah.
The people’s expectations of Jesus were dashed when Jesus turned out to be a different Messiah who would not save them from the Romans and so their hopes turned into disappointments and thus, ironically, in just a few days, the same hands that waved palms were now clenched, the voices that jubilantly exclaimed “Hosanna” were now crying out in condemnation “Crucify him, Crucify him”.
Could we be any different from the crowds then? Aren’t our expectations of the Messiah the same? The all-powerful one that would deliver us from the pain and sufferings brought about by this pandemic? Or on a political level to save us from inept and self-serving politicians? Or on a personal level, to release us from the sin that enslaves us. We have stormed the heavens with prayers and continue to pray for deliverance. But what if, this enhanced community quarantine continues much longer, and we are pushed against the wall, economically, physically and psychologically? What if, we will still be governed from the so-called “public servants” who cater more to their self-interests? What if we keep returning to the vicious cycle of sinful behavior? What then? Would we lose hope in Jesus?
We are following a crucified Messiah whose acts would never resort to violence, verbally nor physically, and whose ways are radically different from the common human response. God may choose to respond to this crisis, our petitions and our sinfulness in a way and a time different from our expectations. Perhaps to meet and embrace us in our weakness and vulnerability, to love and redeem us in our unlovability and sinfulness.
The man nailed to the cross comes to us in vulnerability to identify with us, committed to loving us at the cost of his life. Jesus did not come to condemn us but to give us life. He died to demonstrate that God already does love us, even when we are still sinners and that God’s love is our only hope. Jesus, the one we proclaim as Messiah and Lord, is our source of hope and healing. He will deliver us. In him, we continue to hope. In Him we trust, for nobody loves and cares for us more that He does. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Praise God!”