[Sunday Gospel, March 24th, 2013]
Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
The story of the Passion told by the Gospels is full of contrasts. The Easter Week starts with a scene that seems to be a complete success. The crowd acclaims Jesus, who enters Jerusalem, and considers him as the new King: God has sent him to free them. But each one has his own different idea about the freedom that he brings: many expect a political, military or economical liberation.
The people have been almost always around Jesus, but it is not clear if they understood him or not. There are scenes which present people as a “good” crowd; they long to hear Jesus. Other passages are more complex and present the multitude as just looking for miracles. The people are ambiguous in the Gospels, and the reader doesn’t really know if they are reliable or not.
People have in their mind an idea about the savior King. However, Jesus chooses an eloquent symbolic action to go into Jerusalem: riding a little donkey. It is not the kind of image that would put the enemies to flight! Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem will carry on in a very different manner from that which the people expect or think. A few days later, the crowd will demand and shout for his crucifixion; they will be manipulated by the Jewish authorities. Jesus wants to offer an expressive image, should the viewers want to understand it. He doesn’t ride a warhorse; he is not followed by his army; he is not surrounded by his generals. The little donkey here is the best message that Jesus wants to convey.
Some pharisees go also along with Jesus’ group. They understand well the sensitive and dangerous socio-political context in which they live. They ask Jesus to forbid the people from making this popular proclamation. The Roman army were used to crush any movement that looked like a rebellion; they didn’t really care. And the people’s words could be intended as an affront towards the Emperor. Jesus’ answer has a broader horizon and meaning. There are news that cannot be silenced. Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem is, actually, the beginning of the liberation; there he will complete his love for us, giving his life on the cross. The people do not understand all of it, but there is a hint of verity in their hope.
The stones will cry out if they keep quiet, because it is not possible to silence the greatest truth of human history.
The stones will cry out if Christians keep quiet; we should not be afraid to offer to the world, with humility, the proposal of life that we have learned from Jesus and that we ourselves are trying to follow, step by step and sometimes even unsteadily.
Such a huge love is impossible to hide. If we keep quiet, the stones will cry out.
(Palm Sunday – Year C)