Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 17, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 21:1-11

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.” This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: Say to daughter Zion,

“Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. 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 the he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” And the crowds replied, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: With the arrival of Palm Sunday, we enter holy week with an observation about how the world works and what Jesus does. In the normal course of the world, a successful leader on election night enjoys the adulation of the crowd and the intoxicating energy of hope and fresh purpose. Compare that image with the tired, prematurely aged, and battered politician who walks away with a few remaining shreds of dignity into retirement.

Today’s scene in the gospel story echoes this, but in reverse. Jesus enters Jerusalem borne on a wave of mass enthusiasm. The crowds throw down palms before him and sing his praises. They expect great things of the latest messianic figure. Perhaps deep down they don’t expect he will be different from previous ones but they need winners to compensate for their own sense of disappointment as we love the winners of The X Factor or long to brush up against a celebrity.

The difference in this version of the story, as in the Passion and personal downfall that soon follows, is that the protagonist does not believe the myth he has been turned into. He understands himself and what is happening. At the center of the turmoil a cool silence and presence of mind presides. In the coming days we have to distinguish clearly between the stark individuality of the central character and the mythical elements of the story. There is no easy resolution to this paradox. Lean to one extreme or the other and you miss the meaning. Jesus becomes merely a minor historical figure turned into a mythic icon that has caught the deeper imagination of humanity for two millennia.

To read the story that we embark on today we must allow it to read us. Our own hopes and despairs, mistakes and successes, will guide us into a story whose meaning penetrates all human experience. It then lifts us to a view of reality that transcends and transforms the one who sees it.

Spiritual reading: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you; righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. ~ Zechariah 9:9

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