Rare is the person who has not sought out a convenient curb to watch a parade of happy folks marching by. Local pageants of this sort are a universal form of leisure. They are so simple, so down home, so colorful and inexpensive: The Rose Bowl, the Mardi Gras parades, the flybys at football games, victory marches, Macy’s Thanksgiving extravaganza, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the many welcome home parades for our troops. All have found a place in the lives of ordinary folks, and it’s all free for the watching. Oddly enough, it is such a simple exercise, just a bunch of folks trying to stay in step with the music, hurling Tootsie Rolls off to the kids. You will not find anything more elemental in the human community.
True to form, parades have a message to convey; someone needs to be honored for valor, an event needs to be commemorated, special groups need to be appreciated, a day in summer needs enjoying.
And so it was on a certain spring day in Jerusalem that a group of ragtag Palestinian peasants — kids included — came trooping down a narrow alley of the city, willow and palm branches in hand, leading a donkey on which was seated Jesus of Nazareth who had gained considerable fame preaching and healing back home. He was the one who promised peace in the midst of conflict, protection from enemies and life eternal.
“Hosanna to the Son of David” they cried out, “blessed is he who comes in Yahweh’s name. Hosanna in the highest.”
It was a day of great jubilation, at least for some.
But lurking amidst the celebration was a certain sense of fear and anxiety in the minds of the folks, for they knew right well that this man from Nazareth had also accrued the suspicion and distrust of various religious and military leaders.
He spoke of a kingdom without armies that was about to come, a victory of peace and tranquility that would take place without their doing. Obviously a general without armies would hardly cause worry. Nonetheless, this man from Nazareth posed a threat to the commonwealth, a nuisance to city and temple. Hence he must go! And so it came to be in a matter of days. He was apprehended, tried, convicted and crucified on a low-lying hill near the outskirts of the city.
His message posed too much danger, too much threat for the authorities to abide. Peace at any price was their code and they would not have this “new kingdom” materialize.
Nonetheless for the congregants marching down that narrow street on that spring morning, the promise of a new kingdom was more than a dream. Surely peace replacing strife was worth the struggle, food on the table worth more than shekels sliding into tax coffers, the promise of a never-ending kingdom worth more than temporary tranquility. Surely, all that seemed worth the effort of parading down a narrow alley on a lovely day in spring. First there might be agony, but ultimately there would be ecstasy as we Christians today now know so well.
Yes, it ultimately came to be.
Scriptures for April 13
Matt. 21: 1-11
Isaiah 50: 4-7
Phil. 2: 6-11
Matt. 26: 14 – 27:66
The writer formerly served the Anchorage Archdiocese as director of pastoral education. He now lives in Notre Dame, Indiana.