Welcoming and Rejection: Then and Now
In the two gospel readings for Palm Sunday, we can see a pattern of welcoming followed by rejection, of acceptance followed by betrayal or denial.
When our Lord Jesus made His entry into the holy city of Jerusalem, the crowd welcomed Him with great rejoicing. They gave him a red carpet reception by putting their cloaks on the street for Jesus riding on a donkey, waving palms and branches, and acclaiming Him with loud cries of “ “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.”
But just a few days later those “Hosannas” would turn into clamors of “Crucify him, crucify him!” That the very same crowd would choose a thief and criminal over Him -- over Him who cured their sick, raised some of their dead, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, fed them, and revealed to them who God the Father was and how to go Him.
Even his closest disciples, who were privileged to be most intimate with Him, dining and walking with Him, privileged to receive their first Holy Communion from His own hands at the first Mass in the Upper Room, and their feet washed by their Master also deserted Him when a mob took Him away “like a lamb led to the slaughter.”
One disciple betrayed Him and sold Him to the religious authorities for the price of a slave.
The first among the chosen 12, Peter, to be the first Vicar of His, even angrily denied knowing Him three times when he was identified by a servant girl while His Master was on trial and being scourged, insulted and mocked.
And while He was carrying the cross in extreme pain and then brutally nailed to it, not one of them was visible. When He hung there in agony for three hours only one of them was present. All the rest abandoned Him.
We can wonder why all these people who had welcomed Him enthusiastically, later rejected Him and even asked for His death; and why His special friends betrayed and abandoned Him. We can probably criticize them or look down on them . . . until we realize that we are like them when we both welcome and reject Jesus at certain moments in our lives.
As individual Christians, we do welcome Jesus in our hearts, but we also often face making a choice: people and things and ourselves on one hand, and our Lord Jesus on the other. When we choose people and things and ourselves over Christ, we are in effect rejecting Him.
As a nation, we have now been arrogantly rejecting God and taking Him out from the world He has created. The culture where we live is now called a cancel culture, where mere human beings want to cancel God and erase Him from our institutions, schools, and the public square. God has been effectively removed from our public classrooms, and institutions of higher learning have programmed students to reject the very idea of a Creator and hate the very values that we hold dear.
Some men and women in power have enacted laws contrary to God's eternal laws and have been aggressively promoting them, such as the killing of the helpless unborn, and redefining marriage and the family as designed by God.
Recently, one legislator arrogantly declared: "What any religious tradition describes as God's will is no concern of this Congress."
We have come to this sad reality in the place and world where we live.
Archbishop Fulton J Sheen (now a Venerable), in his book” Life of Christ,” said: “In the life of every individual and in the life of every nation, there are three moments: a time of visitation or privilege in the form of blessing from God; a time of rejection in which the Divine is forgotten; and a time of doom and disaster. Judgment (or disaster ) is the consequence of human decisions and proves that the world is guided by God's Presence. [Jesus] tears [as he looked] over the city showed Him as the Lord of History, giving them grace and yet never destroying their freedom to reject it. But in disobeying His will, men destroy themselves; in stabbing him, it is their own hearts they slay; in denying Him it is their city and their nation that they bring to ruin.”
This Holy Week we need to reflect deeply on who we are welcoming, whom we are rejecting. It is the Lord of Lords who assumed all our sins that we are rejecting. It is the Lord who came to save us that we are rejecting.
This Holy Week let us turn again to Christ, confess our sins, and pray with deep humility, do penance, praying more and fasting, for ourselves, for our nation, and for the world, that we will accept the grace of conversion that God offers us through the merits of His Son, Who suffered and died for us, that we may live. As we receive His Body and Blood in Holy Communion, let us beg the Lord to deal with us, not with His Divine Justice, but with His Divine Mercy, for our personal and collective guilt.
For at the end of our earthly journey and finally meet Christ face to face, He will either welcome us or reject us, depending on whether we welcomed Him or rejected Him in our lives. #
"Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day." (John 12:48)