In the hymns of Palm Sunday, we are told that Jesus’ riding on a young donkey is prophetic. It speaks of the untamed and unclean gentiles whom Christ would tame.
With the kidnapping of two bishops, and continued violence and (un)civil strife in Syria, we are reminded that Christ’s taming of the gentiles was through the Cross. Simply riding the young donkey praised by the crowd–the same crowd that would five days later be crying out “crucify Him!”–this was only the prophecy. The realization was, and still is, worked out through the Cross.
During Holy Week, we walk with Jesus to and beyond the Cross. We experience the beauty of faith and love with the woman who “wastes” her riches bathing Jesus’ feet. We experience the pain and deep disappointment of betrayal as Judas “stretches out his hand for the silver.” We are present at the mocking, the beating, and the spitting. We wonder with the Mother of God why they are doing this to Her Son. Hadn’t Jesus healed their sick and fed them miraculous bread? Hadn’t He opened the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf and driven out the demons? Why are they doing this? And Jesus’ only response is, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own will.”
There is always a paradox in martyrdom. Life is taken on the one hand and given on the other. Those who take life do not realize what they are doing for the one who gives his or her life is not afraid of death. Death is a door, a door to Resurrection.
Every year we prepare for our own martyrdoms. We all die: some suddenly, and some slowly over seven or eight decades. Holy Week helps us prepare for this death. Walking with Jesus through his humiliation, death and rising, we are prepared to walk through our own humiliation, death and rising. His becomes ours and ours becomes His. This is the Christian life: a paradox, our life is taken yet we give our life. Suddenly or slowly, dying daily to die in a moment–to rise with Christ never to die again!