Palm Sunday’s liturgy which celebrates a historical reality about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey, narrates a kind of pain that we all suffer at one time or another in our life.
As we all detest cynicism and rejection, so did Jesus suffer silently as great crowds of people mistook him for an earthly king and thronged the streets, waving palm branches to welcome Him.
With a mistaken identity of a militant leader who would lead them against the occupation of Romans, they all shouted with joy “Hosanna” and laid their cloaks and palm branches from the nearby trees in his path.
Aware of the situation, Jesus went ahead and entered into Jerusalem as a Spiritual King whose mission was to bring peace and forgiveness to the whole world by taking man’s sin upon himself.
It is in that context above that his presence in the city of Jerusalem started to cause a stir as people continually asked themselves who he was and the kind of authority he represented.
These were the preoccupations of the chief priests and the teachers of the law; for the crowds seemed to know who he was: “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” They shouted.
Because of suffering, the blind and the lame knew what to do: they met him at the temple and he healed them. All this made the chief priests and the teachers of the law more indignant.
In a very human style, they started the plot of eliminating him, triggering off a kind of suffering which saw him finally crucified and die on the cross.
The liturgy of this Palm Sunday has a great lesson for us on human suffering in general, and on the suffering of a just man in particular. Suffering and pain have a mysterious element in every person’s life.
We live to suffer and to learn! In case of Jesus, it was for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (50:4-7); he had to suffer blows, insults and spitting, but the Lord would help him and show him the meaning of pain.
For St. Paul, it was all altruistic: Christ emptied himself and took the form of a slave for our sake. (Phil. 2:6-11)
In a different style, St. Luke’s account of the Passion (Lk. 22:14-23:56) wants us to understand the depth of Jesus’ suffering.
He takes us by the hand through different episodes of Christ’s suffering especially through Jesus’ silent pain watching Judas betraying him. He shows us Jesus praying and contemplating his suffering as his disciples discuss their ranks and places of honor.
At the peak of it all, there is his intense, debilitating pain in Gethsemane; to the point of sweating blood due to his loneliness, and being forsaken by men: Peter denied any link with him, and the soldiers who had watched him enter into Jerusalem mocked him with blasphemy and baseness. All this, he took in silently.
Obviously, the way Jesus handled his pain and suffering has taught all the subsequent generations an unforgettable lesson. As a man of pain and accustomed to suffering, Christ in his body and soul collected all pain and sorrow, as in an earthen bowl.
That is why after his death, those who understood what had taken place, immediately started to regret. The centurion confessed: “Truly, this was an upright man.” And the mob went home beating their breasts. To the present day, after more than two thousand years, Jesus’ suffering is still a case to study.
He gives us a glimpse into the mystery of suffering. What happened to him is valid for all people: The just will often find in other people the cause of their pain, but will also find in others a friendly presence and a comfort that stems from solidarity.
By choosing the way of suffering, Jesus taught us that suffering is part of life. We can not do away with it totally. Definitely, it is our obligation and responsibility to fight suffering and pain.
But, it must be done so carefully least we throw away the bath water with the child.
A number of parents do get it; wishing to protect their children from any kind of suffering, they now give them ‘everything’! Then they discover too late that they left their children to have and suffer their own way.
Medical Science and the art of healing caution us: suffering is much wider than sickness. It is complex and so deeply rooted in humanity itself that therapy does not always reach it. That is what Palm Sunday is all about: at the end of the day, we must all pick up our cross and continue writing the story of our life.