Today we have this double observance of Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem and his ignominious death five days later. And what a juxtaposition this is. One moment shows Jesus at the pinnacle of his popularity; a conquering hero of sorts, who many are ready to declare king. The next we hear the story of his betrayal by Judas, abandonment by the rest of the 12, including Peter, and his tortuous death. It is this week when we remember Jesus' suffering and death that makes Christianity so unique, as far as I can tell. The idea that God become man and suffered and died is a stumbling block for many, both deists and atheists alike. And often times Christians themselves seem to want to distance themselves from the cross and it's deeper meaning for us. But it is in the cross that we glory, it is in the cross that we have our true victory.
A reason that the High Priest rips his garments when Jesus declares that he is not only the Messiah, but the Son of God, is because he knew what that meant. For the Jews the great profession of faith is that God is One. His is higher than the heavens and deeper than the seas. He is the perfection of being that can not be encapsulated or comprehended. And so he is. But in Jesus we have God humbling himself, taking the form of a slave, as St. Paul puts it. We would say that in Jesus the unity of God is not disrupted, but the great trinitarian mystery revealed.
Along with the notion that God is indeed higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans; unfathomable in the riches of his simplicity of being, is that God walked our streets. He suffered our temptations. He experienced rejection and misunderstanding. In the person of Jesus of Nazareth he was the victim of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He ended his earthly life nailed to a cross naked, bleeding and abandoned: a stumbling block for both atheists and theists of various stripes alike. But for those who believe the cross is the true tree of life.
But for us who believe it's also a reminder that God isn't far away. He is beyond our comprehension but our sufferings and difficulties are not beyond his. We can never say that God doesn't understand us. Not that he needed to be incarnate to understand us and our lives. In a way I think he did it for us, so we wouldn't have that excuse for doubting. I think it's why we have the sacraments. God could forgive us by our asking for it in our hearts, but maybe we would have doubts about his mercy. But when the priest says, "I absolve you of your sins," we have no need to doubt; his forgiveness is made concrete for us. He told us he would be with us until the end of time, and maybe we would believe that. But when we walk into a church and see the red lamp by the tabernacle, or the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance on the altar, or receive the Eucharist at Mass we know he is truly with us, waking with us, one with us.
As we walk with the Lord this week, remembering his passion, death and Resurrection, may we never forget that he is with us in our everyday passions leading us to the glory of his Risen life.