Sunday 2 April 2023
Mt 21:1-11

“This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey’…When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’”
(Matthew 21:4-5,10-11)

Jesus’ Messianic entry to Jerusalem is an event told by all four Evangelists, who see it as the fulfilment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.

With Jesus’ entrance, Jerusalem was in turmoil, quite literally ‘shaking’. The word used in the original Greek is ‘séio’, the same word used to refer to earthquakes. ‘Séio’ is the source for the modern word ‘seismic’. This verb is only found in Matthew’s Gospel here, when the earth moves at the moment that Jesus dies on the Cross (27:51), and when an Angel of the Lord announces the Resurrection, causing a great earthquake, and the guards “shook” as a result (28:4)! On Palm Sunday, the crowd asks the question, “Who is this?”. This question on the identity of Jesus reminds us of what happens at the time of His birth, when Herod (and all of Jerusalem with him) were shocked to hear of a newly-born king of the Jews from the Magi (Matt 2:3).

Accepting Jesus as the Messiah isn’t something to be discounted. The spiritual earthquake that accompanies Him serves to demolish everything in us which is not authentic, everything that is without foundation and upon which we often base our certainties. We also ask ‘who is this?’ Does he now want to break our ‘peace’ and ‘tranquility’? We would like the Lord’s visitation, but on our terms. We yearn for a saviour, but in our own way: we construct a god in our own image. Well, the Lord shakes and demolishes all this in order to build on the right foundation: Jesus, the long awaited Messiah!

The crowds following Jesus, those that have heard Him preach and have seen him in action, answer the question posed by the others: “it is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee”. He is the One who is to come, the One who is Sent, despite his origins being in a town of little importance!

Let’s not be afraid of the seismic shocks that Jesus’ presence causes. Let’s let everything without foundation collapse and welcome His visit!

Fr. Giuseppe