FR. ARIS MIRANDA, MI
Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Since last week, while following the news at home through social media channels, you won’t
miss updates from the PITX, NAIA, North Harbor piers, and other terminals. Long holy days are coming. It’s Holy Week, a moment of reflection, getting together, family and friends bonding moment, a break from hectic days, or a celebration from heydays. Wherever we are, I assume that we pray and reflect on these days apart from gallivanting and jubilating. Prayer and reflection are well-embedded in our spiritual life and culture. This is why we are trying to find time, even for a few minutes or hours or days, because we want to go through the core of our being – our connection to self, to the ONE powerful than us, and to others. But how do we make it meaningful and fruitful for me, for others, and for nature, our common home? Why do we need to do it?
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and the celebration of the Paschal Triduum of passion (Holy Thursday), death (Good Friday), and the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Easter
Sunday). It begins with the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem, greeted by the people waving palm branches as a sign of welcoming and committing their lives to His proposal (the Beatitudes) of serving the people unconditionally, even at the expense of sacrifices and death as Jesus himself confronted and experienced in witnessing the mercy (hesed) of God to the most vulnerable.
Now is the opportune time to ask ourselves: Am I a disciple of Christ? Like the apostles, when Jesus revealed the plot against him, everyone turned to themselves, asking – “Am I the one …? Surely it is not I!”
In today’s Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we reflect on the gospel of Matthew, addressing the Jews who had been educated in the catechesis of the rabbis to wait for a victorious, dominating, great, and powerful messiah. However, they were shocked and disillusioned. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt 27:40). They were shocked by a defeated Messiah. But Matthew responds: the Old Testament’s prophecies announce a humiliated, persecuted Messiah that would be put to death. They present him as the companion of every suffering and oppressed person. He transformed his defeat into victory, his death into birth; his tomb into a womb from which he was taken to a life without end. God has made it known that he does not overcome evil by hindering it with miraculous intervention but by taking away its power to harm, even making it a time of growth for humans to learn how to confront, resist and fight evil in our times. Being and journeying with the oppressed is the way to overcome the evil in our society today and proclaim the victory of God’s Kingdom, where peace based on justice truly reigns.
When Judas handed Jesus to the corrupt authorities, one of Jesus’ disciples drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to Peter: “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take hold of the sword will die by the sword” (Mt 26:52). A second lesson is the repudiation of uncalculated move that might imperil the lives and movements of the disciples. Peter in his impulsiveness, attacked the priest’s servant without pondering of the implication. Peter could be charged of assault, that may have an implication to their mobility and mission.
Matthew writes in the second half of the first century and has in mind what has happened to his people. Israel had been hit by many catastrophes, famines, pestilences, and corruption by the last Procurator sent by Rome. In this situation arises the revolt of the Zealots, which then ends in a bath of blood. Matthew asks: How did this happen? Why do these evils destroy Jerusalem, the people of Israel? His theological response says: these evils have hit my people because they have rejected the new world proposal of Jesus – a world where each one will no longer look at each own advantage but for the good of others even at the expense of one’s life.
Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because they were not willing to change their hearts in Israel. The blood of the martyrs is a living testimony to the “new world proposal” (Kingdom of God). He who embraces the proposal of God will inevitably encounter violent resistance from those who move away from Christ, those who believe in the messiahs of this world (demagogues) who aim only for profit, power, and wealth and, therefore, are willing to do anything, even to resort to deception, to violence.
The Kingdom of God is primarily a restoration of the original justice of creation. The kingdom of God is not a place but a restoration of liberating, healing, life-giving, and sustaining relationships. By participating in the resistance and liberation of the people, we are bringing about the realization of the Kingdom of God. This is our prophetic mission and responsibility as Christians.
When Jesus gave his last breath , “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.”(v.51). It was the veil that separated people from God. Finally, God has removed it forever. We now have access to Him, into His Kingdom, seeing in the face of Jesus the face of God unveiled. If there are veils, these are the ones we placed … are our images of God: The God who loves the good and punishes those who disobey him; the God who loves only good people and punishes the wicked. These veils have been torn because on Calvary, we now have access to God, and there are no more veils. We are experiencing authentic justice, peace, and the communion of people no longer identified by classes but by a commitment to His Kingdom.
Then “the earth trembled” which marks the collapse of the ancient world and the beginning of a whole new world. God intervenes in our history until justice reigns. When God enters, nothing remains the same as before. It is an experience that we all do in our lives. “The “rocks were split.”; The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the heart of stone, which would be destroyed and replaced with a new heart. From that day, a person will be known not by his/her success in this world but by his/her unconditional commitment to pursue justice and equality, even at the risk of his/her life for love. And this is what resurrection is all about, the fullness of life, the full restoration of God’s original design to His creation. This is our hope which needs our full and active participation in building God’s Kingdom.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing, reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).