by S. Johansing and Monica LCW Columbus, Ohio
As we approach Lent and Easter 2017, this article spotlights the responses and actions of the crowds to Christ and the internal human responses Jesus may have had to these responses of Him, especially during all that transpired from Palm Sunday to His ultimate Passion.
By the point in Jesus' life of Palm Sunday, the poison of the Jewish leaders' jealousy and fear had been fanned and cultivated to the point of immense hatred to the murderous level. While self-evident for a long time, the love and mercy of Jesus' most Sacred Heart had to have made Him hold onto a last thread of hope for them.
After all, He did not seek fame for Himself, constantly shushing whoever he healed or set free, in order to move about and teach Truth as far and wide as possible before His end. They had to have seen this. He did not cater to the popular "women of prominence" or even them, nor anyone (such as a highest rabbi or Pharisee) who could have had the power to cast him above them. He had zero interaction with the local and national leaders to undermine them either. He was no real threat at all.
The only threat He was to them was His holiness of life and audacity to speak the Truth to them -- particularly about the hypocrisy of their lives and hearts. To speak what was true -- about God's mercy, love, and especially His humility that even they, lesser than God, chose not to live by in their roles as religious leaders.
Knowing that He most likely will suffer and die a grueling death, He enters Jerusalem as a king, to the uproar and great enthusiasm of the cheering and praising crowds. They even loudly sang songs over him while they put palms down for his donkey to walk upon, as a carpet emitting the highest royalty.
It must have been such music to His ears! He had to have thought for a fleeting moment that maybe, just maybe, He may not have to suffer so greatly on the cross. It must have been the height of His time, that "they DO understand. They finally get it and see what I am trying to do and that I truly truly do love them. They see and finally KNOW the truth behind my message, the Truth of this new Way. Truth itself. They finally do understand I AM. My Kingdom on Earth has truly, truly come and begun. I was to come into the world and fix the mistake made in the fall, but maybe I do not have to be exposed to that level of hatred and physical pain."
It starts slowly, taking Him in the night a few days later. Even though He had pre-warned His Apostles, even though He had given them His Body and Blood in the first Eucharist, that Palm Sunday before must have given Him a tiny glimmer of hope, because He still begged His Father at Gethsemane, after the first Eucharist, for this cup to please pass Him by if it could. His sweat was like drops of blood as He pleaded hard for a way out of what most likely lie ahead. Now though, they have come, and now He looks down at His bound hands,...
He could not turn to others, no one was there. Yes, even His beloved Peter really did do it, completely denied ever having known Him in His hour of greatest need. And He was to be the HEAD of this new Kingdom on Earth. Even though He had told Peter on Holy Thursday that He would do this three times against Him, it still had to have grieved Him greatly.
Even though He knew all this was to be, what a sinking, sinking feeling it must have been when the sting of the first whip jarred Him, and the rawness of shredded skin was being further whipped deeply into muscle tissue...
It gets worse and worse without a minute of let-up. the piercing thorns in His skull that He must wear all day after being mocked and struck hard with reeds as dense as hollow baseball bats...
The very people who had jubilantly sang praise songs of Him five days earlier - praising the one who they had heard so many great things about - now viciously turned on Him - urged on by the ringleader Pharisees and Sadduccees. It was not long that the power of suggestive doubt, suspicion, and hate had swayed the crowd, taken root, and grown into hate and murderous thoughts against Him. It was crystal clear from the Father: "No, you really DO have to do the whole thing..."
They screamed into His face, they spit on Him, threw things at Him. Nudged on they shouted to crucify Him, to release Barabbas, even after seeing how badly He had been scourged.
Now He carries on his raw stinging open back a huge, impossibly heavy cross, like concrete blocks, through the city streets and up this insurmountable hill.... with the shrieking screams of the other two prisoners being crucified ahead of Him... the humiliating thought of being fully naked in front of these women for hours ... the long crude nails being driven through His hands and feet, splitting them open, like a worm with a hook through it, and hanging by His body weight on only His nailed hand and feet wounds -- all in front of the malicious crowd.
The most wrenching of all, putting His sweet mother, sobbing at His feet, through indescribable pain and suffering at the sight and experience of His torture, the sword of swords piercing her heart over and over and over again without mercy, with nothing to ease her pain.
And the feet. How beautiful the feet that walked so far to bear good news, now bearing the force of love. I have always thought of that unspeakably raw and painful spot just above the feet wound, or at the top of it, that constantly bore the force of His entire body weight bearing down hard upon it, by gravity, rubbing and agitating this open fleshy tangle of nerves and vessels, especially when He had to push His body upward to take a breath. Excruciating. Stinging.
Some do not realize this, but on the cross you died of lack of air. The way they had their arms extended put pressure down upon their chest and lungs. In order to take a breath, you had to "stand up" high on your feet, putting lungs higher than your arms. Such torture for Christ upon His precious feet! That's why they broke the knees of the other two prisoners so that they could not stand higher to take a breath, and so, would die quickly.
May this also be a time of pondering who we are in the crowd, in different crowds we find ourselves in, toward Christ and His Way of love, of mercy, of peace. May His love and His peace reign in our hearts and in our world for all that He modeled and sacrificed for us; just as Dietrich Bonhoffer and Franz Jaegerstatter sacrificed in refusing to join Hitler's army of hate, greed, and lust for power. Mussolini and Hitler could not have killed the millions that they did without a LOT of help -- it took thousands of Catholic soldiers in both Germany and Italy to massacre millions.
May we, like Christ, be a shining light on a hill, a city set apart, refusing to kill sacred human life as the nonviolent Cross of our Lord and Savior has taught us in word and deed! (See the new movie directed by Mel Gibson, "Hacksaw Ridge.").
At an Encounter weekend I recently attended, I explained to a Franciscan of the Renewal who was praying over me on the last day (and had put a relic of St. Padre Pio on my shoulder while ministering to me) that I felt like a punching bag, with hard boxing glove blows from others through Satan, not knowing from which direction they will come from next, to the point of even being denounced as evil. He said, "Do you know what this means?! What an honor this is?! How blessed you truly are .... the few who have had this honor..." I needed that, praise Jesus.
May we trouble ourselves this Lent to read an entire Gospel in a short time (a week or two) to truly and fully put ourselves into the sandals of Christ's most precious feet. May our Shofar (Old Testament horn for rallying all to religious services and to war) be blasted the loudest for Christ the King of Kings in this world of great hate, fear, suspicion, and killing. May all of our actions mirror only Christ's and His most holy Apostles and martyrs.
May the loud horn call Christ-followers to a spiritual war -- armed with "the breastplate of righteousness," the "sword of Truth" (the Word made flesh), and with the greatest of all - LOVE - against an Old Testament war mentality so prevalent in the Middle East to this day.
This Lent may we also take the priceless time of listening to the voice of the Lord alone, that of our Beloved. Eucharistic Adoration with the actual physical flesh and body of our Lord Jesus Christ in the room is powerful!!
As learned in Theophostic prayer, may we have uncomfortably long wait times, seemingly fruitless wait times in silence, beyond any more words, prayers, expressed internal yearnings or even praise, for that sometimes faint and quick "wisp of smoke," or "still small voice" of God, the manner described in the Old Testament when God speaks to us.
Patrick Reis, at Encounter, gave a wonderful exercise in hearing the voice of God. He said, "Shut your eyes and say your first and last name in your head.... That is what it is like to hear the voice of God." I have had this happen as well, more clearly and conversationally, but usually in the second or third hour of Eucharistic Adoration.
St. Catharine's just opened up its Thursday Eucharistic Adoration in Lent for 11 hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Praise the name of Jesus for this, and Fr. Dury (and Fr. Lumpe for beginning regular Eucharistic Adoration again). We also have Adore, another newer form of Eucharistic Adoration, on the first Sunday of the month at 6:30 p.m. We will have our 7th one March 5th at St. Catharine's. This is and has been done Franciscans of the Renewal style, which I won't give away! POWERFUL.
We know how this epic story, the greatest love story ever told, of Christ's passion, ends after all the torment and suffering -- it ends GLORIOUSLY and extends forever and ever and ever for all of our stories, sprung from the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has truly freed us from death and set captives free, set all of us free by taking our sins upon Himself on that excruciating cross: our sins of the past, present, and future if we plug into the Cross of Christ. We can be freed from pride, lust, greed, hate, wrath, vainglory, suspicion, and all other forms of sin. Praise our King, our Savior and Deliverer, the Prince of Peace, now and forever!!
PLEASE PRAY FOR THE CANONIZATION OF DOROTHY DAY AND PETER MAURIN!