Climbing Up to the City

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Most of the roads that lead up to the ancient city of Jerusalem seem to drop off from the hills surrounding it into a valley and then climb up toward the walls that once protected it from enemies. The site of the city on a hill is striking from the nearby hills and is one of those scenes I easily recall when thinking about Jerusalem. It is from one of these very hills that Jesus looked over the beautiful city and wept at the lack of faith of those who dwelled within it. He wept at the history of the city filled with violence and betrayal as well as promise and hope.

The symbol of the dignity and hope of the Jewish people is this magnificent city. Founded by the great king, David, and seen as an expression of the elect status of this noble people, Jerusalem has always played a significant part in the history and destiny of this people, even to this day. Jesus is fully aware of this history and, in fact, aware that He is entering the city on this day as the proclaimed king and messiah who will also, in a few days, be arrested, tortured, and murdered.

Yes, Jerusalem is a city of paradox: a place of the hope of the people and the place where that very hope is crushed. In many ways, Jerusalem is symbolic of our human condition, our own cities, and our lives. We are the blessed and chosen people baptized into life in Christ Jesus. The Church is a New Jerusalem and the hope of the ages. She is the sacrament of God’s enduring love for us and the way by which we come to faith.

At the same time, she is you and me and thus, she is a sinful institution. She struggles against the forces of evil and speaks against a culture of death. Her sacraments bring us faith and life. The Word proclaimed within her nourishes us for life’s journey. The Eucharist celebrated in the heart of the life of the Church is the food of life today and forever. The teachings of the Church guide us and enlighten us as we make our choices in life each day. Finally, the communion we share with one another and with our God in the Church sustains us in good times and in bad.

On this Palm Sunday, we celebrate the grand entrance of Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem and recall, through symbols and liturgy, the deeper meanings of this day. It is a day laden with significance, exposing the fickle and weak nature of the human condition. It is also a day that contains the hopes and dreams of a people searching for meaning and truth. What we find on this day is Jesus. The same One who was born in poverty in Bethlehem, fled for His life to a foreign land, and returned to grow up in obscurity in Nazareth.

From before there was time, Jesus was preparing for this entrance into Jerusalem. It is an action undertaken freely and lovingly. You and I are the observers of this entrance. We remember it and are in awe of the simple proclamation that this Jesus is the Son of David and Messiah. We are shocked to remember that this is the One we will watch as He endures betrayal, torture, and death in the week ahead. We sense the paradox and we see the parallels in our world around us. Yet it is in the events of next Sunday that our hopes rest. Sin and death are conquered by the Risen One. To Christ we can look for deliverance from the tragedy of Jerusalem. For in this Holy City we find the hope of all the ages fulfilled.

Fr. Ronan