Palm Sunday is here again, and under leaden skies, with a nasty little wind tugging at us, we shall follow the Cross, as the disciples followed Jesus two thousand years ago in Roman Palestine. The sights, the sounds, the smells will all be different, but it will be impossible to ignore the same sense of brooding menace, of barely contained brutality which will become plainer as the week goes on. The hosannas we sing today will quickly turn to shouts of ‘crucify him, crucify him!’; and though we may try to hide the fact from ourselves under a pious show of sorrow, we are all complicit, for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
If that were all, today would be a day of infinite shame and despair, a terrible indictment of our fickleness and shallowness; but it isn’t. The mild-eyed donkey in Giotto’s painting seems to have glimpsed the truth. This is a necesssary part of the journey to salvation. Christ must be acknowledged as King before he suffers as Servant and becomes Lord of All. We must exhaust our puny human possibilities of understanding before grace can work its transformation. We must experience the blood, toil, tears and sweat of Christ’s Passion before we can enter into his victory.
Today Christ enters Jerusalem with two thousand years of human misunderstanding, conflict and division marking his way, but he will not stumble, he will not falter. It is in Jerusalem that he will give the world the peace for which it longs, but it will be through the sacrifice of his own body, bloodied and brutalised on the Cross and shared with us today through the sacrament of his Body and Blood in the holy Eucharist.