“Turn unto the Lord your God”
The words of the prophet Joel serve as one of the mantras for the season of Lent, a recurring refrain which shapes the Lenten journey. But even more it provides the matrix through which to contemplate the Passion of Christ which is set before us with great intensity in Holy Week beginning today, Palm Sunday.
It is the holy business of this Holy Week to be constantly turning us to Christ who has turned to us. In a way, it is really one long liturgy that begins today and ends on Easter, a kind of circling around and around the mystery of God in the work of redemption. “Rend your hearts,” Joel exhorts us and “not your garments.” It is the business of Holy Week to break our hearts. In our turning to God, we are invited to learn two necessary and interrelated ideas. The one is the truth and dignity of our common humanity as found in our being with God; the other is the disorder and disarray of our humanity which is equally common to human experience. How will we learn to think these two contraries together? Only by immersing ourselves in the fullness and completeness of the Passion of Christ as set before us in all four accounts of the Passion in the Gospels. Such is the intensity of the logic of Holy Week.
That logic is set before us today. We turn to Christ who enters Jerusalem triumphantly. Palm branches are strewed before his way and garments, too, are laid out before him and yet he enters riding, as Zechariah prophesied, “upon an ass and a colt, the foal of an ass,” in other words humbly and in meekness. Here is no cavalcade of high-end cars and limousines, no great retinue of the rich and the mighty; instead there is the sense of joy and expectancy on the part of the common people who turn to Christ, crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David.” It moves the whole city. “Who is this?” they say, to which the multitude answer, “Jesus the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee”. Part of the project of Holy Week is for us to realise with “the Centurion and they that were with him” that “truly this is the Son of God,” God with us to redeem us. And that means confronting the sad and sorry realities of our faults and failings, not to mention the sad and sorry realities of our broken and disordered world.