Today it starts. Holy Week. It is Palm Sunday. We remember the joyous story in the Bible of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding “low on a donkey.”
The donkey, by the way, was the mark of a king entering the city in peace. If he had entered on a horse, it meant he came for war.
It was a happy day. In the euphoria, men, women and children spread out their cloaks and freshly cut branches on the road in homage to their king. Hosanna!
A few days later, this crowd was out again, pushing and shoving to get a better look at the same man, this time scourged, crowned with thorns, bloodied and condemned. They hurled insults and mocked him without mercy. Crucify him!
Mankind has not changed one bit. How quickly we switch from words of love to hateful curses, from pledges of loyalty to cries of utter disdain.
How could the crowds who lined the streets in so loving a welcome become rabble-rousers thirsty for his blood? I wonder who put them up to it. Was it the Sanhedrin? Was it because the man from Nazareth had dared talk about righteousness and his kingdom? Or was it that the light from the carpenter was too bright for the hypocrites and pretenders of the times and they wanted to extinguish it?
Every year when Holy Week comes around, I feel the need to focus on what this season of quiet is all about.
For many, it is a time to withdraw from the everyday bustle and take to the hills, or the beach, or if the budget allows, even get on a jet and take a break.
Even the man on the street rests during Mahal na Araw. There are a few who try to cram extra work to boost their income so they can splurge for pabasa. But on Holy Thursday and definitely Good Friday, everything stops. It is time to pray.
Holy Week plans
I will visit “Walkway” at BGC. This has been my Visita Iglesia, my Via Crucis for the past eight years.
“Walkway” is a moving experience. It takes you down the Via Dolorosa where you can identify with the characters. We get a chance to check if we are part of the lynching mob.
You can almost see soldiers playing dice under the cross, gambling for Christ’s possessions. You are gently reminded to pause and reflect on his words, moaned in anguish, spoken in love. They speak of sorrow, loneliness, need, forgiveness and final completion.
It takes me closer to the Cross, close enough almost to touch it, and I wonder: “Am I so close to the cross but so far from the Christ? So close to the timber yet so far from the blood?” (Max Lucado)
Is this the condition of people today? Is this the state of my heart?
As I have grown in years, it has become very clear to me that despite going to church, repeatedly striking our breasts in true contrition, we still stumble on the same old rock, break the same old rules. We are obstinate, not willing to accept correction or admit that we must change the road we have taken. Are we so obtuse or simply clueless about how wrong we are?
Are we even aware of the damage we cause when we breach the rules, disrespect the law, malign a person, destroy his name or say disparaging things about our country just because, who cares, everybody’s doing it?
When did we decide to be one with the mob? Who conned us to become part of the problem? When was the last time we ignored detractors, gossip and rumormongers or tried to set the record straight? Sometimes it’s hard to stomach the filth posted on social media.
How did we get to this low and shameful point in life, where we revel in the stink of corruption and laugh in the face of disgrace?
What has happened to our sense of good, to that modicum of decency that past generations guarded so fiercely on our behalf? How did we get so complacent among the ruins of our own forgotten Camelot?
We are immune and impervious to the muck and stench of our everyday existence, and fail to realize how badly we need a cleansing. We no longer smell the rot that surrounds us. We are the rot!
What is the meaning of clean, anyway? What is the use of being good if nobody is looking? Do we know what honest looks like?
We praise the dishonorable, the abusive and entitled and in the process have lost our own sense of shame. We wouldn’t recognize decency if it slapped us in the face.
What has happened to us?
Have we sunk so low and now must drag everyone else with us? How can we stop this downward spiral? Wait! Do we even want to? What will it take?
It might be time to think seriously about bringing our lives, like dirty rags, to the Cross and ask for a makeover.
There is a man hanging there with his arms outstretched. Remember him?
“Look at the forgiveness found in those open arms and take courage.
“And by the way, never were those arms opened so wide as they were on the Roman cross. One arm extending back into history and the other reaching into the future.
“An embrace of forgiveness offered for anyone who’ll come.
“A hen gathering her chicks. A father receiving his own. A redeemer redeeming the world.