A reflection by Fr. Frank Hegel, SFM, on Luke 19.28–40, Isaiah 50.4–7, Philippians 2.6–11 and Luke 22.14–23.56
Throughout Lent we have been journeying with Jesus to Jerusalem. The liturgy on Palm Sunday begins by commemorating his triumphal entry into the holy city. What does it mean for us to journey to Jerusalem? To answer that question I think we have to be aware of what “Jerusalem” meant for Jesus.
Obviously, being a good Jew, Jerusalem held some importance for Jesus. Aside from being the source of revelation of the Law, for Jesus, Jerusalem is also the place of promise (the point from which salvation radiates), the place of community (where his disciples hide), the place of commitment (the place from which the Good News radiates to the entire world), the place of encounter (between the divine and the human) and the place of glory (the place of the cross and death). For Jesus, Jerusalem was somehow the place where everything came together, where everything made sense. Jerusalem would be the place where the old order would give way to the new. Why he had come was inextricably bound up with his going to Jerusalem. It’s almost as if Jerusalem was the sole object of his focus.
If this is true, what does that tell us here today? What difference does it make to us? How do we know what to focus on? Again, I think we can look to Jesus for the answer to our questions. On his journey to Jerusalem, he wasn’t focused simply on the stuff of his own life. He didn’t pay attention solely to what was closest at hand – his wants, his needs, his desires. Neither did he pay attention only to what the ultimate goal was – something out there, some other world, or some other kingdom. Rather he paid attention to that whole universe in between these two extremes. He paid attention to what was going on in the world around him. And so, on his way to Jerusalem Jesus pays attention to the lame and the blind, the sick, the grieving, to women and children. He pays attention to the issues and needs of the day. They were not obstacles for Jesus. They didn’t get in the way. Theywere the way! It’s how Jesus was going to get to Jerusalem – with these people.
How does this translate for us? To have our eyes fixed on Jerusalem is the same as saying we have our eyes fixed on Jesus. Having our eyes fixed on Jesus, we pay attention to the issues and needs of today. Do we notice what’s going on in our family? Community? Congregation? What’s really happening here? Do we pay attention to our friends and co-workers, our parishioners? Do we pay attention to the waiter at the restaurant we go to? The clerk in the store? Do we pay attention to our neighbours, the immigrant, and the refugee? Do we pay attention to the homeless person? The person infected with HIV? The elderly? How about the person whose face you know but you never did get their name?
Life is going on there. How is it going on? What’s happening? We pay attention to all of them because they’re all part of the journey for us. They all make up the journey. Like Jesus, our journey is from heart to heart, from our individual heart to the heart of the universe which is really the heart of God. Our journey, if engaged in correctly, will lead us to our destination. We will know we have reached our destination when we mutually recognize and honour the Risen Lord in one another. We will actually start to look like God. As lofty and profound as that sounds, that’s exactly what will happen. St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians (13.5-6), “Examine yourself to make sure you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is really in you? If not, you have failed the test.”
The poet C.S. Eliot wrote, “And at the end of our exploring, we will return to the place we began and we will know it for the first time.” We will come full circle and know that this is what we are about. The disciples followed Jesus to Jerusalem as we heard in the reading today. But they got confused. When they heard the crowds proclaiming Jesus as King they thought, “This is it. This is the moment when Jesus will come into his earthly kingdom and it was all going to be set and fixed in might and power.” Only later did they realize that the Jerusalem Jesus was going toward is only reached through service and love.
As Holy Week begins, it is time to ask ourselves, “How’s the journey going? On what are our eyes fixed? To what do we pay attention?” The journey continues towards Jerusalem. For all of us, at the end of our exploring, when we have come full circle again we will return to the place from which we began, which is, in fact, the heart of God. And we will truly know it for the first time. We will look around and see that the whole community is gathered there with us. We will have reached Jerusalem.