March 28, 2010 A+D
St. Matthew 21:1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Palm Sunday is like a great fugue, point and counterpoint. It runs up one side of the canyon and then comes rushing back down again, only to rush up the other side, exploring the full reach of our emotions, of what it is for God to be Man as Priest and Sacrifice while life and death hang on the horizon. The King enters in poverty, yet with some pomp. He enters by royal procession, in a victory march, but His triumph leads to execution and defeat, which is, in fact, His victory and from which He draws all men unto Himself, the means by which He steals away the devil’s treasure and plunders Hell. He is meek and mild, a threat to no one, yet worshiped by angels, prayed to by the masses who ask for salvation while carpeting His path with palms and the garments off their backs, and the damage that is done to Hell, the devil’s sting-removing defeat, is only what the devil does to Himself. The Lord is known, yet unknown, lowly on the lowly beast, a donkey, the foal of a donkey, stubborn and ugly, no one’s favorite. It is reminiscent of St. Christopher carrying the Infant Lord across a river that He might be carried across the Styx, across the Jordan, and into heaven.
We are now on the cusp of our holiest of weeks. We stand upon the banks of the River Styx, Pharaoh’s army and their weapons are behind us. Who will carry us across? How shall we pass from death to life?
The parts the waters and carries us. We travel by means of His suffering and death. For that sorrow and pain is the embodiment of all our hope, the fount and source of grace, the center of our faith. We cross by witnessing the sad love of God for man that costs Him His life at our greedy, snapping jaws. Sir, we would see Jesus, lest we die in this wilderness.
This week is sad and happy, our greatest joy and our greatest shame. The dogs are ever underfoot. The vultures will not wait for death, but start as soon as the dying are too weak to fend them off. But so also St. Mary is there, the most-blessed one who carried God in her womb, and St. John is there, who carried the Lord to Patmos and beyond, and St. Simon of Cyrene, let’s not forget Him, who carried the cross. All these are like a donkey carrying God into Jerusalem. God’s enemies are there, but so also are His beneficiaries, those whom He loves and who, by that love, love Him.
So we are there. We are both. We are the evil men who hate God in the Flesh, who reject His mercy and mock Him, who blaspheme Him with calculated, pretend piety and act as thought we do not know what Justice is, what Truth is, what Love is. Yes, we are so, so smart, in our modern skepticism, our pale imitations of Socrates, as though if we ask questions and strike a pose of doubt, we are clever, not easily taken in, not niave, not fooled, not like the common people. In fact, we are simply cowards and too proud to bow before the Mystery of God in the Flesh who created, sustains, and redeems us. What drives us is our pride. We are skeptics because we are afraid of looking stupid. We are mean to the pretty girl, whom we secretly love, because we are afraid she will be mean to us or think us stupid. So we strike our preemptively and ruin our chance. Is skepticism and the deliberate unknowing of what donkey’s know counted by us as wisdom? Would it not be better to treat the pretty girl well, even if it turns out that she is mean to us? Shame on us! Do we think too good to be loved by God? Is He unworthy of us? Must He bend to our will, play by our whims, indulge our perversions and selfishness, constantly entertain us? How many tests will we set? Is it not enough that He has died, do you now demand He excuse your sin or let you make up your convenient rules?
Repent, Pilate. Repent Herod, Caiaphas, you who sought the good opinion of the masses or to control the situation or who simply wanted luxuries for yourself. Repent Nicodemus, too afraid to come by day, Peter, ashamed and denying, Thomas, with your doubts. Repent, and turn from your evil ways. Look upon the cross of Jesus Christ and see God’s wrath roasting the Lamb upon a spit, see the Lamb that the Father will not help or with whom He will not abide with Him, whom the Holy Spirit not comfort and angels will not serve. He is forsaken, cursed, counted among sinners, handed over to Satan, in order that God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, would have, be with, and comfort you. Look there and see the love of God that will not quit, that spares not even His own Son. See the passion of the Christ that never forgets, that counts you worthy and brings you across, brings you in. See Jesus.
Indeed, we are as stubborn and ugly, as uninspiring and plain as donkeys, nobody’s favorite, not famous, not important, insignificant in this fleeting plane, but we are redeemed, taken for a war steed, placed into the triumph, given a place of honor. He seeks not kings and heads of state, He wants not movie stars and politicians, the clever, the rich, the powerful, the popular. He comes instead and sits at your lunch table, with your geeky friends, with the kids that everyone would leave behind and ignore. He comes for donkeys. He eats with sinners. He does not judge. He does not condemn. He does not demand. He eats and He provides. He rides to redeem. No one made Him come. He is not trying to be nice, because He feels sorry for you, because it makes Him sad to see you left out. But He comes because He likes you, loves you, enjoys your company. He wants to be with you. He sees what no one else can see, what even you cannot see, the real you, the redeemed and baptized you, the immaculate, holy, perfect, lovely Bride that He has chosen for Himself.
He is not stupid or strange. He is Wisdom. He knows what He is doing. He has chosen you on purpose, to be His. The world sees a donkey, the Lord sees what He has created in beauty and strength, what is good.
Consider this, all lovers of Wisdom, those who bask in the Holy Wisdom from above. This is all that Socrates ever learned: anyone who thinks he is wise is a fool, while all of the truly wise know they are fools. That is wisdom. But it is also true for saints. Anyone who thinks himself a saint is a sinner, and damned, while the saints know they are sinners. All of the children of God, all those beloved of Him, all those magnificent warhorses so honored to carry Him, to be His hands in this world, to speak His Name, know they are sinners, donkeys, unworthy, yet put to a noble task. Thus are saints sad at their sins, happy at the death of Jesus, and eager to cross over to the other side, for the day when the marriage will be consummated and full.
He has created you. He has redeemed you. He rides for you, in perfect love, without regret, and you are spared, loved. He carries you.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.