Commentaries on Holy Week | Palm Sunday
Holy Week is beginning, and we recall Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. St. Luke tells us: As they approached Bethpage and Bethany, near the hill named after the Olive Trees, he sent two of his disciples telling them: Go to the village opposite you. As you enter, you will find a young donkey on which no one has ridden yet. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you why you are untying it, say to them: the Lord needs it. They went and found everything as the Lord had told them.
What a humble animal our Lord chose to ride upon! Perhaps we, in our conceit, would have chosen a spirited stallion. But Jesus does not let himself be guided by purely human reasoning, but by divine criteria. This happened, St. Matthew notes, so that the words of the prophet might be fulfilled: Tell the daughter of Zion, behold your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
Jesus, who is God, is happy with a young donkey for a throne. We, who are nothing, are so often vain and proud, seeking to stand out, to attract attention. We want others to admire and praise us. St. Josemaria Escrivá made use of this scene from the Gospel.
He assured us that he was a worthless, mangy donkey. But since humility is truth, he also recognized that he was the depository of many gifts from God, especially that of opening up divine paths on earth, showing millions of men and women that they could be saints in the fulfillment of their professional work and their ordinary duties.
A THRONE FOR CHRIST
Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. We need to draw conclusions from this. Every Christian can and should become a throne for Christ. Here some words of St. Josemaría are very appropriate: “If Jesus reign in my soul, in your soul, meant that he should find it a perfect dwelling place, then indeed would we have reason to despair. But Jesus makes do with a poor animal for a throne…There are hundreds of animals more beautiful, more deft and strong. But it was a donkey Christ chose when he presented himself to the people as king in response to their acclamation. For Jesus has no time for calculations, for astuteness, for the cruelty of cold hearts, for attractive but empty beauty. What he likes is the cheerfulness of a young heart, a simple step, a natural voice, clean eyes, attention to his affectionate word of advice. That is how he reigns in the soul.”
Let us allow him to take possession of our thoughts, words and deeds. Above all, let us free ourselves of self-love, the greatest obstacle to Christ’s reign. Let us be humble, without assuming merits that don’t belong to us. Imagine how ridiculous it would have been for the donkey to appropriate to himself the acclaim and applause that the people were directing to the Master!
INSTEAD OF PALMS, OUR HEARTS
Commenting on this Gospel scene, John Paul II recalls, “Jesus didn’t see his earthly existence as a search for power, as a means to worldly success and a career, seeking to dominate others. On the contrary, he gave up the privileges of his equality with God, and took the form of a servant, becoming like us men. And he was obedient to the Father’s plan, even unto death on the cross” (Homily, April 8, 2001).
The enthusiasm of the crowd usually doesn’t last. A few days later, those who had received him with acclaim, were crying out for his death. And we, do we let ourselves be carried along by a momentary enthusiasm? If during these days we sense God’s grace passing close to us, let us make room for it in our souls. Rather than palms or olive branches, let us spread our hearts on the ground. Let us be humble, mortified, understanding towards others. This is the homage that Jesus expects from us.
Holy Week offers us an occasion to relive the most important moments of our redemption. But let us not forget that, as St. Josemaria wrote, “If we are to accompany Christ in his glory at the end of Holy Week, we must first enter into his holocaust and be truly united to him, as he lies dead on Calvary.” To attain this, there is no better path than walking hand in hand with Mary. May our Lady obtain the grace we need so that these days will leave a deep imprint on our souls. Let this week be, for each of us, an opportunity to grow in God’s love, so we may make that Love known to many others.
Commentaries on Holy Week were originally broadcast by the EWTN Radio Network (April 4-11, 2004). Reprinted here with permission.
Most Rev. Javier Echevarria was the second successor of St. Josemaria Escriva as head of Opus Dei from 1994-2016. He worked closely with St. Josemaria Escriva as his personal secretary from 1953 until St. Josemaria’s death in 1975. Bishop Echevarria was ordained as a priest on August 7, 1955. He was elected and appointed by John Paul II as prelate of Opus Dei on April 20, 1994. The Pope ordained him as a bishop on January 6, 1995. Bishop Echevarria died in Rome on December 12, 2016.