16 March 2008
“This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” “Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord!”
St. Matthew uses the prophecy of Zechariah in his description of Jesus’ entrance into
Jerusalem. What is interesting about that prophecy is the contrast: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of
Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and
victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass”. (9:9)
One might ask whether it is possible to be triumphant and victorious and at the same time
humble. By choosing to enter Jerusalem in the manner in which he did, Jesus showed the people
the type of king he truly is. He comes in triumph but not triumphantly. He has taught as a
shepherd, not as a general. Those who have heard him speak or witnessed a miracle that he worked
have now been called to give witness to their experiences. They do so by proclaiming Jesus the
“Son of David”, praising God the Father for sending their long awaited savior.
At the same time, however the religious as well as the political and military authorities must
have taken notice of what was happening. Matthew tells us that, “the whole city was shaken”. The
clamour reached their ears and they responded. St. Matthew does not tell us here, but one can only
imagine that their reaction was negative.
According to St. Matthew, Jesus certainly knew the significance of what he was preparing to
do. He sent his disciples to fetch the donkey and her colt, explaining in great detail what will
happen. As we journey with Jesus and the Apostles over the next few days, we will see a number of
images that will remind us of the fact that Jesus, the Son of David, has come to save us and set us
It is interesting to note that, according to the Synoptic Gospels, this entrance into Jerusalem
is not immediately followed by the story of the passion. In St. Matthew there are three chapters
separating the entrance from the account of the Last Supper.
The triumphant entrance into Jerusalem is tempered at bit and refocused by the passage from
the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. We hear of the “Servant of the Lord”- the second of Isaiah’s three
prophecies that spoke of the Messiah. In those passages we come to understand the true nature of
the Messiah – not appearing as a king in glory but as a humble servant.
St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, reinforces that understanding. In the beautiful
“Philippians hymn”, he tells us who this Jesus really is and what he has done for us, “…he humbled
himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross!” All of this shows us that this is all part
of God’s plan. The Old Testament promises are fulfilled and we become witnesses. As witnesses
we are also called to respond.
“In him it is always possible to recognize the living sign of that measureless and
transcendent love of God-with-us, who takes on the infirmities of his people, walks with them,
saves them and makes them one1. In him and thanks to him, life in society too, despite all its
contradictions and ambiguities, can be rediscovered as a place of life and hope, in that it is a sign of
grace that is continuously offered to all and because it is an invitation to ever higher and more
involved forms of sharing.
Jesus of Nazareth makes the connection between solidarity and charity shine brightly before
all, illuminating the entire meaning of this connection2: “In the light of faith, solidarity seeks to go
beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimensions of total gratuity, forgiveness and
reconciliation. One’s neighbour is then not only a human being with his or her own rights and a
fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father,
redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit.
One’s neighbour must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the
Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 32: AAS 58
Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 40: AAS 80 (1988), 568: “Solidarity is
undoubtedly a Christian virtue. In what has been said so far it has been possible to identify many
points of contact between solidarity and charity, which is the distinguishing mark of Christ’s
disciples (cf. Jn 13:35)”.
Lord loves him or her; and for that person’s sake one must be ready for sacrifice, even the ultimate
one: to lay down one’s life for the brethren (cf. 1 Jn 3:16)”3.(196)
In hearing the account of the Passion according to St. Matthew, which begins with the
agreement for his betrayal and ends with Pilate telling the authorities to guard the tomb, we see the
Old Testament prophesies in a new light. We also see the events surrounding the passion,
beginning with the account of the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist conform with the
pastoral ministry of Jesus. He has come to us and offered a great gift. If we accept that gift we are
called to respond to him in his passion, death and resurrection.
John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 40: AAS 80 (1988), 569.