Hosanna! The crowds in Jerusalem afforded Jesus an euphoric entry into Jerusalem. Within five days, a blink of the eye in a lifetime, Jesus died an unheralded death on a cross on a rubbish tip.
At Mass each week (or, for some, every day) we echo these crowds as we exclaim Hosanna in the highest! in exultation of our Lord. And yet, not too long after we issue our resolution of praise, many of us become all too human again and, like the crowds in Jerusalem, separate ourselves from our Lord however briefly in thought or deed, by commission or omission.
As we enter Holy Week, it is our impulse to be on Jesus’ side, seeking to ally ourselves with him. In truth, most of us are like those masses in Jerusalem who chanted their hosannas and waved their palms at Jesus, and soon abandoned him.
In Holy Week, more than at any other time of the year, we must find a measure of identification with them, as well as with the disciples who fled after Jesus’ arrest, and with Peter who found that his pledges of unwavering fidelity to Christ were hopeful platitudes.
Holy Week shines the spotlight on us as sinners, reminding us that our own pledges of fidelity to Jesus are as fickle as Peter’s. Holy Week calls us to take stock of our sins of the time when we lacked love and charity, when we idly gossiped, when we wished somebody else ill, when we broke God’s Commandments.
With our own imperfections as faithful followers of Christ revealed and acknowledged, we humble ourselves before the cross on Good Friday, in awe and shock at the cruel death Jesus suffered for our weaknesses, and in deferential gratitude for the gift of everlasting life we may redeem because of it.
The Passion of Christ humiliates us in our fragility as followers of Christ, but our humiliation is laced with joy in anticipation of the Risen Christ whom we welcome on Easter Sunday, as he issues us an invitation to be with him forever.
Even as we know that next year we will again bring to mind our weaknesses and sinfulness, we continue to live in hope because of Christ’s promise of redemption.
And that is why we can say at weekly or daily Mass: Hosanna in the highest!