Fr. Don Brick, OCD, gives his insight on Palm Sunday. Today’s Readings
Do you notice the different contrasts in the Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? There is a litany of conflict in the Passion, a tale of tensions in the Passion.
We see for instance the betrayal of Judas vs. the loyalty of Jesus. We see the bragging of Peter – “Lord, the others might abandon you, but I never will!” – vs. the humility of Jesus. We see the carefree, lazy sleeping of Peter, James and John vs. the intense agony of Jesus in the garden. We see the disciples fleeing vs. the Lord remaining. We see the lies of the witnesses vs. the truth of Christ. We see the triple denial of Peter vs. the constancy of the Master. We see the accusations, mocking, spitting, and the punching of the soldiers vs. the silence of Jesus. We see the chant of the mob vs. the stillness of Christ. We see the release of the terrorist Barabbas vs. the condemnation of the innocence of Christ. We see the caving in of Pilate vs. the steadfastness of Christ. We see the jeering of the executioners vs. the patient suffering of Christ. We see the hate of the crowd vs. the love of the Son of God. We see the darkness covering the earth vs. the light of the world.
It is a cosmic battle; it is a titanic clash. It will be played out in the sacred liturgies of this Holy Week. Good vs. Evil. Truth vs. Lies. Light vs. Darkness. Love vs. Hate. Mercy vs. revenge. Right vs. wrong. God vs. Satan. Grace vs. sin. Heaven vs. Hell. Life vs. death. There is a battle waging and a war going on and the most important question of all is: who will win?
The question we can ask is: on what level is the battle taking place and where would we be in this battle? Where would I be? Today everyone is shouting Hosanna in the highest and yet five days later on Good Friday they shouted, “Crucify him!” Where would I be and what would I do? This is our examen.
People have often wondered how this happens and we might think it as two different groups of people, when we look at the Jews and Romans in the first century and compare Palm Sunday with Good Friday. Our temptation is to draw a line outside of me and to say on one side of the line is the good people and on the other side of the line are the bad people. But in today’s Gospel we see that it is the same people. Here is the real truth: the line is not outside of us at all. The line is inside of each one of us.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was in the gulag under Stalin. He was falsely accused and set off to the Soviet prison camp and he saw what you would see in any prison camp: he saw bad people who would be cruel to the prisoners and he saw the prisoners, many of whom were falsely accused, and they seemed clearly to be the good people. But then, he realized that there were cruel guards who were also kind sometimes, and kind prisoners who were sometimes cruel. He started looking at himself and had this profound insight. This is what he wrote: “I lay there rotting prison straw and I sense within myself some stirring and gradually it was disclosed to me the line separating good and evil does not pass through the states, the line separating good and evil does not pass through classes nor political parties, but the line between good and evil passes through every heart, through every human heart and all human hearts and this line shifts throughout the years and that even with hearts overwhelmed with evil only one small bridge remains and even in the best of all hearts there remains a small corner of evil.”
My temptation is those are the bad ones and those are the good ones, but Solzhenitsyn had this insight that is absolutely true: that inside of me passes the line of good and evil, and so inside my heart there is good and inside my heart there is evil and the line oscillates – sometimes I choose good and sometimes I choose evil. Again the temptation is if we could just draw it somewhere else we could track down the bad ones, he writes, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
We could round up the bad guys and destroy them no problem but if I look inside me and discover the truth of who I am, there is not some dramatic evil but I am looking into my own face, into my own heart.
In this Year of Mercy we will see who triumphs: always, the Merciful Heart of the Lord triumphs. In our lives we pray to trust in His Divine Mercy and continue to grow in His goodness and Mercy. Pope Francis said, “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! … ‘Oh, I am a great sinner!’ ‘All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!’ He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more’ (Jn 8:11).”