As the pastor of my internship parish noted in his homily for this Palm Sunday, today the Church gives us a liturgy with a bit of a “split personality.” At the beginning of the procession with palms before Mass, we are chanting “Hosanna!” “Praise to the King, the Son of David!” and then perhaps 2o minutes later we are engaged in recounting the Passion of the Lord and take on the role of the crowds in Jerusalem shouting “crucify Him!”
The hypocrites, in case for some reason it needs to be said, are us.
A big shout out to our friends Adam and Eve and to the great misery of original sin that we’ve inherited in their wake. I’ve said it before, but it always bears repeating: human nature is fundamentally good, humans have been created in the image and likeness of God, and true transformation at the deepest level is possible. Basically, because of sin your human nature is not totally obliterated; it is, rather, like a car in desperate need of a front-end alignment that has the tendency to swerve and veer off the road. This presents a kind of duality within us, a set of two “I’s.”
The first “I” is the “I” when we’ve got our hands on the wheel and are really trying our best to be our best, to give ourselves and our desires over to the Lord in order that they might be sanctified. We are often in a place of consolation, of closeness to Jesus and to our neighbor, and are in our respective vineyards doing the good work of God. When Jesus comes by, we hardly have to think before shouting “Hosanna!”
The second “I” is the “I” when we let off the steering wheel and being to veer off the narrow way, moving closer and closer to sin until we actually (and willingly) commit it. We’re tired, irritable, and perhaps could not care less about our neighbors and shrink away in anger and shame before the Lord. As we commit our sins and turn away from Jesus and from his Church, from our friends in the Lord, and move out into the dying sea carrying within us the paradoxical desire to be left completely alone and at the same time to run back to the One who can make us well again.
We’re all hypocrites and, thanks to sin, we all have schizophrenic souls. I really desire to shout “Hosanna!” but sometimes I have no desire for that; instead I want to run away from the One who says, “Let me change you and make you new again,” throw down my armor and hide in the comfort of all my familiar sins. As I run away from grace and into darkness, I’m recalling in my mind that dreadful phrase which serves as the password to the fortress of death: “crucify Him.”
May the suffering Jesus, the dying Jesus, the expired Jesus, the risen Jesus, the ascended Jesus, Jesus the King, Jesus the Friend, Jesus the Most High God, Jesus the Intimate Companion of Hearts be with us this week, and may we come to trust Him and love Him and finally let Him in our lives far enough so that the door can be closed behind Him as he becomes the permanent resident of our hearts.
And may our lives, from this Easter, onward be filled with “Hosanna!”