• Isaiah 50:4-7 • Philippians 2:6-11 • Luke 19:28-40 • 6 Lent C ‘13/ Palms •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 03.24.2013
In the 1970’s Oscar Romero was named archbishop of San Salvador in Central America. He was a quiet and introverted person, certainly considered safe by the Vatican and civil authorities in San Salvador. A cruel military government plagued the country and death squads roamed freely exterminating the poor and the powerless. As the violence increased, Romero began to speak out on behalf of and in defense of the poor and powerless. He denounced the violence of his own government. His popularity increased. When he preached crowds filled the cathedral or gathered around radios. He foresaw the possibility of his own death and spoke of it often. On one occasion he remarked, “I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.” He called for soldiers to disobey when ordered to fire on innocent civilians. Soon thereafter, while celebrating Mass, he was assassinated.
Jesus came to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. It was a three or four day walk from Galilee. We do not know what impelled him to make the trip. Perhaps he thought it was time to extend his teaching about “the reign of God” beyond Galilee. Jerusalem at Passover would be an opportune time and place for him to announce “God’s new reality” emerging among us.
He must have been aware of the risks and dangers he would encounter in Jerusalem. His message had upset some in Galilee. It was likely that in Jerusalem he would disturb both temple leaders and Roman authorities. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking or feeling on that day when he stood on the Mount of Olives looking across the Kedron Valley to Jerusalem.
Jesus had spoken so often of God’s love, confident God never abandons us! He called his listeners to trust in God and lived what he spoke. Now he was facing an enormous trial. Certainly his anxiety and fear must have been overpowering. Such primal instincts make all of us hesitant. He must have felt tempted to be less than his true self. It took a lot of trust to put himself in God’s hand that day. That is what he did! He sublimated his anxiety and fear, and directed the enormous energy of those instincts to maintain his spirit of nonviolence.
His struggle was the struggle faced by all of us. It is no easy task to be true to my inner self, especially when I feel overwhelmed by anxiety and fear.
Jesus of Nazareth was a typical Jew of 1st century Galilee. He was fully human as we seek to be.
As we enter Holy Week I think of the words of Archbishop Romero. “If they kill me, I shall rise again.” But Jesus of Nazareth had no idea or expectation of resurrection.
Throughout his life he was true to his inner self. Here again on the Mount of Olives we see the tenacity and audacity of his faith. His trust in God remains steadfast. He controls, sublimates and redirects the enormous energy of that primal instinct of fear boiling up within him. Of all our primal instincts, fear is perhaps the most powerful. It prompts us to be less than human, less true to who and what we are and are able to become. Fear is the generator of violence.
So Jesus and his companions entered Jerusalem. The evangelists differ in the details. All agree he was seated on a donkey. That is so symbolic. He, the innocent victim, is the prophet of nonviolence. He comes to Jerusalem with the message of “God’s new reality.”
Archbishop Romero of El Salvador understood all of this. Two hundred fifty thousand gathered for his funeral. They also understood! Now we stand with Jesus at the brow of the hill overlooking Jerusalem. Later this week we will stand with him on the hill called Calvary. Holy Week sets this prophet of nonviolence before us as a model to imitate. He is present here among us, inviting us to understand and embrace his way of nonviolence, the way of love.