Sunday, March 20, 2016

Luke 19:28-40

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 23:1-49

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

[Luke 19:39-40 New Revised Standard Version]

I’ve never been a big fan of the combination of the Liturgy of Palm Sunday with the Liturgy of the Passion, but who am I to argue with those who compiled the lectionary?

Nevertheless, today churches commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with festive outdoor palm processions only to enter into the sanctuary and hear the grimacing narrative of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

I understand to a certain extent the idea of having people experience the valley of the shadow of death on this Sunday, given that many of them will not darken the door of the church on either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. In years past, when the passion was not a part of this Sunday, folks would go from Palm Sunday directly into Easter Sunday, from one celebration to another as if going from mountaintop experience to mountaintop experience without living through the valley in between.

But it is not my intention to belabor the point in this post. So enough said.

Fr. Virgilio Elizondo
Fr. Virgilio Elizondo

In my first seven years or ordained ministry I served as Mission Developer for a Hispanic/Latino congregation. That experience shaped and fueled my passion for social justice.

One of my major influences was the writing of the Reverend Father Virgilio Elizondo, a Mexican-American priest who is considered the originator of Hispanic/Latino theology in the United States.

Tragically, Father Virgilio committed suicide earlier this week at the age of 80. His death, notwithstanding its sadness, brought to mind his groundbreaking major work, The Galilean Journey, published in 1983, in which he expressed his thoughts on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. What follows is an adaptation of that essay.

+++ +++

The powerful are afraid of Jesus now because he has the masses behind him. It will not be easy to get rid of him. The establishment—consisting of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders—tried to destroy his credibility, but not being able to do that, decided that he had to be destroyed.

The power structures can allow a popular leader some leeway while they plot and plan carefully. Jesus must die because he has exposed the establishment for what it was: a self-serving group exploiting the masses under the disguise of serving them and – worse yet – exploiting them in the name of offering sacrifice to God.

Zambian artist Emmanuel Nsama depicts the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
Zambian artist Emmanuel Nsama depicts the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

The scene of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem was a disturbing one to those in power. The confrontation with the power structures in Jerusalem would certainly mean suffering and death, yet it had to be undertaken; there was no other way.

In our times, and in all times, Christ has to go his way to Jerusalem. Again he has to face the structures of oppression in today’s world. As his Galilean followers were called to go with him, so today his followers are likewise called to go with him and in him to Jerusalem for today’s world. God chooses disciples not just to make him feel good, but for a mission. Conformity to the ways of the world would be a betrayal to the way of Christ, which is that of confrontation with the ways of the world.

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