A special invitation

Palm Sunday, 10 April 2022

Life is a journey.  Paul Coelho said, 

“Our life is a constant journey, from birth to death. The landscape changes, the people change, our needs change, but the train keeps moving. Life is the train, not the station.”[1]

We’re pilgrims and sojourners on earth, a temporary place where nothing is permanent; we won’t be here permanently.  Sometimes we treat life as if it’s permanent, and give everything we have – only one day to leave it behind.  Scripture gives us an understanding of something that has begun and something that will come.

Canon House has walked the whole Camino de Santiago for fifty days.  It’s a metaphor for life.  Sometimes he didn’t want to walk, sometimes he was very tired, sometimes it was raining or snowing, sometimes he didn’t want to go on.  That’s life; but every morning we always have hope.

Journey with Christ

As we look at the life of Jesus by following the readings, not only are we re-telling the story of the Son of God, but there’s a beautiful way of understanding the Scriptures.   Let’s imagine ourselves walking with Jesus to Jerusalem; don’t simply listen to the story – be one of the participants, holding a palm, looking at Jesus sitting on a colt, smelling the branches, as if you were there.  Today we are entering Jerusalem with Christ, the beginning of a journey that will end next Sunday.  On a journey you take only the things that are important, and lay aside those that are unnecessary; you must choose very carefully what you need.  

This Holy Week, see yourself as walking with Christ: as He enters the temple, enter with Christ; as He cleanses the temple, watch what is happening; as Jesus is arrested, ask why – am I saying, “Crucify him”?  Journey with Christ to the cross.  The cross is not the end – there’s something more to come, and we know the end of the story.  We journey with Christ to the cross with sorrow, we look at it from afar; I hope we’ll see Jesus struggling to carry the cross, and offer to carry it for a while.  We imagine the sufferings of the world, and our own sufferings, and say we suffer with Christ.  Don’t simply listen to a message – be a part of the message, because what He did is all for you and me.  You and I should have been there, but instead Jesus was there.

“The Master needs it”

Jesus traveled as a missionary from Jerusalem in the south to Caesarea Philippi and even Tyre and Sidon in the north.  Then He turned His face again to Jerusalem; Jericho was the last city on the way.  The story of His entering Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels, with some interesting details.  He instructs His disciples to enter a village and find the colt or foal[2] of a donkey.  They will see the animal tied, but they are to take it; and when the owners ask why, say, “The Master needs it”.  If I were to ask a clergy to take a million dollars from the bank, or a nice car, and to say, “The Bishop needs it”, we would go to jail.  This was a very young donkey on which no one had ever ridden; a horse that has not been broken in would throw you into the air, and your bones would be broken – it must be broken in before you sit on it.  But it happened exactly as Jesus had told them.[3]  

In that culture, a civic leader or a rabbi could request the use of an animal for a specific reason and return it afterwards.  Furthermore, Scripture says

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it”;[4]


“Every animal in the forest is Mine”.[5]

Jesus could tell His disciple to take the colt because it was His.  

Not only did He chose an untamed and uninstructed animal, but He had walked for three years throughout Israel; He only asked for an animal for this last stretch.  It was symbolic, as David and Solomon had also entered the city riding on animals.  It was enigmatic then, and even now it’s something to think about. The Jews did not believe that God could become man; it was impossible in their culture and religious thinking.  In our modern time we ask, “How can this man be God?”  There was some inkling in their hearts that Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament, which brought Jewish hopes, wishes, ideas and expectations.  We cannot fathom that God would be born in a manger instead of a palace; or why the King of Israel, promised by God to David and the inheritor of his dynasty, would ride a colt instead of a stallion.

Why did God take my place?

God is inviting us to something very special this week, to join and walk with Him. 

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher”:[6]

He will teach us the purpose and meaning of life, which we cannot understand otherwise.  Paul says,

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.[7]

God emptied Himself of all His divine privileges, became like us, and walked the Via Dolorosa.  Walk with Him, though you may not understand why.  Let your heart be present with Him, and say, “You walked this walk for me.  I don’t know the way, but You do.  I don’t understand why we’re going to the cross.”  Jesus is whispering in your ears: “Follow Me, walk with Me, and you will find out.”  We find right before our eyes God, the King of the universe, who left all the privileges in heaven to become like you and me – someone who suffers, rebels, denies, is stubborn and who most of the time really doesn’t follow God but goes his or her own way…  Why?  That’s the mystery of Holy Week.  He became a slave and a servant like us, and we can see the complete obedience of God.[8]  It is only through obedience that after the cross comes the resurrection.

Receive God’s invitation

You may be very busy, especially with “social media” and electronic gadgets, but ask yourself what is really more important, and walk with Jesus.  Let the Church through its services guide you deeper into the mystery of His love, which our minds cannot fathom.  The Jews cannot fathom why God became man, and we don’t understand why this man is God – but through this journey, His journey is also our journey.

Lord, You’re inviting us to something very important for our faith: the mystery of Your love, and of Your death and resurrection.  You gave us a very special invitation to walk with You on the road to Jerusalem, carry the cross with You, and see why they are torturing You, an innocent man.  They crucified You – humanity judged God – and said You deserved to die.  Lord, why?  You were crucified instead of me – Lord, why?  Let me journey with You, let me see and feel Your suffering that should have been my suffering, and touch my life.  Why did You become man?  We don’t know the way, and we don’t understand everything; it’s a mystery.  But we harken to Your invitation and say we will walk with You and follow You; we will not abandon You – we’ll be there.  Speak to us and transform our lives this Holy Week.  In the midst of darkness may we see the light; in the midst of death may we have the hope of life – it’s only in You, Lord.  For those who are struggling with their faith, may You restore, renew, and refresh us.  We set aside this week for this purpose.  May we join You in the garden and wonder why You were sweating blood and continually praying while we were sleeping.  When You were arrested and someone betrayed You, could it have been me?  Could we have been among those saying, “Crucify him”?  We want to walk with You in this journey towards the cross and resurrection, which is our only hope.

Say in your heart, “I receive the invitation to walk with Christ this Holy Week.”  When we see Him on the cross, something will happen.

[1] Paul Coelho, transl. Margaret Jull Costa, Aleph (New York: Random House, 2010)

[2] Zechariah 9:9

[3] Luke 19:28-35

[4] Psalm 24:1, NRSV

[5] Psalm 50:10, Evangelical Heritage Version

[6] Isaiah 50:4, NRSV

[7] Philippians 2:5, NKJV

[8] Philippians 2:6-8

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