Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!
Lent of opposing expectations
Most years, we expect a very round experience. Winter, spring, summer, fall. Every year, the cycle of holidays comes and goes. This year, however, is strange. Ash Wednesday, for example, fell on Valentine’s Day. Easter falls on April Fool’s Day.
Much can be said about those strange combinations, but a third came to my attention this past Sunday. Palm Sunday fell on March 25, the day on which we usually commemorate the Annunciation and the Incarnation. Because of the other mixed occurrences, I wondered how these two feasts could merge.
Palm Sunday celebrates the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is also called Passion Sunday, however. The Gospel reading is Mark’s account of Jesus’s Passion, beginning with the woman anointing His feet with oil, and ending with His burial.
So Palm Sunday is already a day of opposing expectations. We participate in throwing palms before the Prince of Peace, remembering the promise God made to our father David:
The LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son… And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.
2 Samuel 7:11-16
And then we participate in the reading of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Burial. Holy Week is about untangling these expectations. It is about the journey from sadness to joy.
Judas was unable to untangle his expectations from the events of Jesus’s life. His expectations are frustrated. He has listened carefully to the words of Jesus during their journey to Jerusalem. He came to understand Christ’s expectation of suffering and death. He heard that Jesus was not coming to conquer the world and make Israel great.
This did not conform to his expectations of the Messiah. So Jesus was not the Messiah. Time to “cash out”. But as Jesus says:
For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.
The pairing of this feast with the Annunciation, however, gives us an example to follow this Holy Week. At the Annunciation, Mary accepted God’s plan for the world’s salvation and her part in it. She knew the prophecies, that the Son of God was to be the Savior of the world. She expected and hoped.
But she did not allow her expectations to dictate the way she accepted her Son. She took Him and His life and death as they came. She kept all things in her heart, meditating on the wonders of God.
To take the things of God as they come… It is a mystery that deserves meditation itself.
Not every year is as the last. Things change. We change. As we come to the end of Holy Week and the celebration of Easter, may we check our expectations and reject what is merely human. Only then can we experience the joy of accepting the things of God with gratitude.
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