Once again we are faced with a moment of choice. Are we going to follow the Man on the donkey, or stand among the onlookers? Are we going to take to heart his message or merely allow ourselves to be entertained by the unusual spectacle? The confusion on the disciples’ faces and the incomprehension on those of the bystanders mirror our own mixed feelings. This is not what we expected. Only the Man and his donkey go serenely on their way, certain of their purpose.
Modern Britain is not so very different from the Roman Palestine of two thousand years ago, and this morning Roman Palestine and modern Britain are one. The liturgy is not just an act of historical recall; it is an act of participation. We are there, on those busy streets, among the crowd that has gathered to witness this strange sight. More than that, we are sharers in this drama.
Do we understand what we are seeing or how to measure its significance? We don’t always see clearly, and the last twelve months have been so difficult for everyone, it is hard to recognize what is being asked of us this morning. Yet we feel the heightening tension, experience the hint of menace, and know that we must make a decision, without being able to reckon the consequences.
We must make the journey to Jerusalem with Christ, there to suffer and to die with him, that we may rise again on Easter night. We may drag our footsteps, or we may be like Giotto’s donkey, and gladly allow ourselves to take the Lord wherever he wishes to go. In the end, it does not matter. What does matter is that we go with Christ, that we are with him every step of the way, no matter how brutal or horrifying this week becomes. For Catholics celebrating Palm Sunday in Makassar, Indonesia, the brutality and horror are real enough. Let us pray with and for them as Holy Week 2021 is already stained with blood.