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Jesus and his shabby spectacle

  • FATHER GEORGE W. RUTLER

Jesus orchestrated the Palm Sunday spectacle just as He, as Divine Wisdom, orchestrated the elegant harmony of the celestial spheres. 


palmsundaydonkeyThe more science shows of the universe, the more its beauty almost takes one's breath away.  There is nothing about it that could be called vulgar or in bad taste, for those are categories applicable only to what humans on our little planet do with things.  It is possible to mock the harmony of the spheres with degrading human music, just as the stateliness of the galaxies can be burlesqued by undignified human behavior. 

Logically then, when the Master of the Universe became flesh, He did nothing vulgar or tactless according to human lights.  Even when He fled the mob in Nazareth, or hid from the crowd that had been dazzled by one of His miracles, His pace was elegant and His demeanor beyond reproach.

Strange then that when He entered Jerusalem to die, He arranged a sort of shabby parade, and encouraged the children to cheer Him as a king even after He had spurned a crown from a crowd.  He must have seemed vulgar and tactless.  Those who thought He was arrogant accused Him of blasphemy, and those who thought Him silly crowned Him with clownish thorns.

When the parish priest John Vianney heard that people were calling him a saint, he pretended to be the village idiot.  Perhaps on Palm Sunday, Christ was mocking those who thought He was the king they wanted.  But His coronation would be on a cross in a mystical ritual that sophisticates would consider foolish (1 Corinthians 1:23).  As for pomposity, His entrance procession was clean of pretentiousness because a true king must ride on an ass to show his humility as a servant of his subjects (Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus orchestrated this spectacle just as He, as Divine Wisdom, orchestrated the elegant harmony of the celestial spheres.  Only the vulgar and the pompous, then and now, have had an itch to accuse Him of vulgarity and pomposity.  Not only on that first Palm Sunday, but in every year of human history, He makes a spectacle of Himself to make us speculate: Who is this man that He has authority to forgive sins? (Luke 5:21)  And: Who is this man that He speaks with authority and not as one of the scribes? (Matthew 7:29)   Our Lord seems to cheapen Himself by arranging a tawdry procession through the narrow streets of the Holy City, but he does it to show how precious He is.  Riding on an ass through fetid alleys, He declares that the power of creating all the universe is in those hands soon to be nailed to the wood of a cross.  That degradation is His exaltation.  It is a glory farther beyond measure than the size of the universe He has created.  And the children cheering him in dissonant and shrill voices, are proof that His Kingdom "is not of this world" (John 18:36). 

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Acknowledgement

Rutler5smFather George W. Rutler. "Jesus orchestrated a shabby spectacle." From the Pastor (April 14, 2019).

Reprinted with permission from Father George W. Rutler.

The Author

Rutler1rutler46smFather George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City.  He has written many books, including: The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2019 Father George W. Rutler
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