Jesus Christ, Truly Human
First Reading : ( Is 50:4-7 ) : The servant of the Lord
Second Reading : ( Phil 2:6-11 ) : Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death
Gospel : ( Mt 26:14-27:66 ) : The Passion and death of Jesus
“Coolly I face a thousand pointing fingers, Then bow to be an infant's willing ox.” (1)
“If on self-examination, I find that I am upright, I will go forward against thousands and tens of thousands.” (2)
Today is Palm Sunday when we celebrate Jesus' glorious entry into Jerusalem. There is a tradition that after the palm branches have been blessed, Catholics take a branch home. I want to share with you how we should look upon these palm branches and other blessed articles.
Many years ago I had a friend who took home two palm branches. I asked him why he took two and he said he would place one at the door and one at the window, so that the evil spirits would not be able to come in. I said to him, if an evil spirit wants to enter your home, it could enter from the ceiling or through the floor. My friend’s way of looking on palm branches was somewhat superstitious.
Another time in a Catholic school there was a rumor among the students that an evil spirit had appeared in the W.C. The school authorities placed a cross in the lavatory but the problem was not totally resolved. According to the students, the cubicle where one could see the crucifix was not haunted, only the ones where the crucifix could not be seen. It seemed that Jesus' power could not go through the wall. Certainly this way of looking at blessed articles was also superstitious.
Actually what really protects us is not a blessed article but God who is symbolized by it.
Palm branches are a symbol of our welcoming Christ and our willingness to let him be Lord of our lives. We want to obey Jesus and live according to his teachings. In other words, our whole life is united to Christ. In that way Christ of course will bless us.
What I want to emphasize is that it is Christ's protection, not the palm branch or crucifix itself has ‘power’.
Therefore when we raise up the palm branches or take one home, we should remember that these are symbols of our welcome to Jesus and our willingness to accept him as our king and our boss.
Today is Palm Sunday and also Passion Sunday. The Christ who entered Jerusalem gloriously is also the Christ who suffered and died.
In today's first Reading the Prophet Isaiah describes the suffering Messiah, the Servant of the Lord:
Morning by morning the Lord GOD wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. (Is 50:4-7)
Here I remember a well-known saying of Lu Xun: “Coolly I face a thousand pointing fingers, Then bow to be an infant's willing ox.” (1) Mencius also said something similar: “If on self-examination, I find that I am upright, I will go forward against thousands and tens of thousands.” (2) The meaning here is that, if on reflection I find that my words and actions match, then even though there are thousands and millions of people against me, I can still go forward courageously and fearlessly. If I am right, even though the world says I am wrong, I can still face the rancour of thousands and millions of people coolly with a face set like a stone. This is our Saviour Jesus Christ, our King.
In Chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians But our King is the Servant of the Lord. He did not resist God's call nor evade the shame prepared for him. In Chapter two of the Epistles to the Philippians Paul said, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross.”
Jesus is true God, but he was born into the world and became true human being. He experienced all human pain and suffering during his lifetime. Today when we read the Passion and Death of Jesus we will see this true God who did not use one iota of his divine power to lessen his pain.
What about us? We are not satisfied with being human, we want to be God. We deserve punishment for sin, but we do not want to suffer. In the presence of pain we hope we can destroy or at least relieve the strength of the suffering.
If there is one who does not deserve punishment for sin in the world it is Jesus, yet to redeem our sins, he suffered the pain that we should suffer. He emptied himself, took on the form of a servant and became human. He was obedient to death and died upon the cross.
This Jesus whom we welcome is such a King, yet he is a servant who fully responded to God's call.
According to God's will Christ had to undergo all the sufferings of humankind, walk the path of all humans in order to be a true human being.
There once was a theology student who asked a professor, “Do you believe Jesus is God?” The professor answered “You asked the wrong question. You should ask, do you believe Jesus is both God and man?” Yes, Jesus is truly God, but sometimes we fail to remember that he was also truly human. He experienced all that we experienced, life and death, success and failure; he was betrayed, ridiculed, he experienced hunger, disappointment; he even shed tears.
Today amid the celebration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem let us acknowledge our Savior, this truly human Christ. Let us also ask Jesus to help us become truly human, courageously answer God's call, accept everything in life, and fulfill the mission that God wills for us.