April 5, 2020 – Palm Sunday

Today, we celebrate the Palm/Passion Sunday that begins Holy Week.  In the gospel that introduces us to the celebration, “Jesus rode on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden”.  Jesus, in choosing to enter the city of Jerusalem today upon an ass, contrasts his humility with that of the Roman occupiers of Jerusalem at that time who ride horses as symbol of their oppressive and imperial power.  Though Jesus is God, St. Paul in the second reading tells us that he chose the way of humility to die on the cross.

Dearest sisters and brothers, in the face of this Covid-19 ravaging our world presently, we are also being called to humility in the face of this unexplained tragedy inflicting much pain on our communities.  Today, many people have assumed to know the “reason” and “why” of the disease, claiming in their warped prognosis that Covid-19 is a divine punishment upon the world because of our sin.

Without denying our sinfulness, it is important to remark that with regard to this present challenge facing our world, none of us knows and will ever know the why of it.  We can only be humble to accept our human limitations before this apparent human disaster.

Reflecting on our situation, a phrase that comes to mind is W. B. Yeat’s poem—The Second Coming, that states:  “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”.  While the aforementioned phrase describes perfectly our present ordeal, it is important to remind ourselves that it was also to this kind of world that Jesus came into.

During the time of Jesus, the life of every average Jew was worth nothing before their brutal Roman oppressors who ravaged their communities like the Coronavirus is doing to us now.  It was to such a world that Jesus triumphantly entered today.  He went into Jerusalem to suffer and to die for his brothers and sisters in the same way he wants to die for love of you and me, saving us from this present trial.

Perhaps, the question each of us must ask oneself today is; what lesson can one learn from Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem?  The most important one is the truth that Jesus is still the king of the world and no amount of suffering can deny that truth.  His rulership over the earth extends to this present sickness and he is always there to guide us throughout our entire life.

In our conception of time, it is important to remember that there are two senses in which time can be conceived—the sense of “now” and sense of the “future”.  While Coronavirus, in the present with its devastating effects, is baring its fang, we cannot sacrifice our entire life at the altar of our present fear.  It is pertinent to remind ourselves that the fears to which we succumb today will deny us the glories of tomorrow.  While we cannot remove entirely the trepidation that has enveloped our present psyche, it is important still to keep in mind the global picture of our entire life which is in the hands of God.

Today, Jesus, by his suffering and death, transformed all our human sufferings and as we confront our present confinement and a Holy Week that has no fixed Easter community celebration to look forward to, let Jesus’ suffering be our hope.  As we read the story of his pain on the cross today, let us come face to face with our pains knowing that he experienced pain and suffering before us and will surely show us how to get through this one.

As we recall Jesus suffering for us on the cross today, let us attune our attention to other people who may be suffering more than we are.  Think about all those at the frontline of the present fight; those already infected; and, our medical professionals and others helping them.  If we cannot do anything more to help, can we pray for them as I invite each of you to spread your heart like the Jews who spread their cloaks, so that Jesus can pass through.  Jesus wants you to be the “new donkey” that will lead him into our present world that has been invaded by this “corona soldier of death”.