LORD OF THE HEREAFTER

Imagine the small people of a not too promising, and not too sophisticated group of ordinary people. Some cut branches from the trees along the road and lay them in the path of a man riding on a colt. Others take off their cloaks and lay them along the path. Soon whispers from pages of the Old Testament pass from one to the other. “Fear not, O daughter of Zion! Your king approaches you a donkey’s colt.” Not really understanding what is happening to them, the people begin to respond to God working to them. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel.” Soon it becomes a “get-on-the-bandwagon” kind of atmosphere. People begin to dance about, and to shout out that the kingdom of God is about to start. The reign of the Messiah is finally going to begin and the Romans will be driven out of the sacred land of God’s people.

The events which followed this short-lived triumphal procession into the city of Jerusalem show how poorly these people understood what God was saying to them through his Son, Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee. Their reactions could serve as guidelines for us in our response to God communicating with us. A study of them might help us improve our prayer of hope, hope in the hereafter, for this is where these people went wrong. Last Sunday we looked at our response of hope in this life, in the right now. We asked that we all try to deal with present problems with a prayer of hope for the now. Today we must look at the other side of the coin. How does hope for the hereafter influence our lives? What is our response to God communicating eternal life to us?

The problem is a sort of “all-this-and-heaven-too” situation. The people in the first Palm Sunday procession wanted a strong, kingly ruler and a government that would make the Jewish nation the conquerors of the whole world. They were unable, or unwilling, to look beyond their own time. When the procession lost its momentum, and nothing more happened, they drifted away. They concluded that nothing much was going to come of this Jesus of Nazareth and his idealistic teachings. So, it was not difficult for them, on the following Friday, to turn against Jesus. The climax of this rejection is found in the Passion account read today, especially in the words, “Crucify him!” What a way to respond to God entering their lives and offering them the promise of eternal life! Even in his trial before Caiaphas when Jesus spoke the truth, he was condemned as a blasphemer. We need God’s truth. We need to know with certainty: “Soon you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” It is true we do not easily understand the Jewish figure of speech which Christ used, but nevertheless the truth is that, through Christ, we are to live forever.

The Christian lives his life fully and completely in this world, but with an eye on eternity. The person who “cops out” on either one is not living his life fully, no matter how successfully he may deceive himself. Judas is a good example in today’s account of the Passion. Judas took the “short term” view of the situation. Jesus had failed to set up a kingdom. So Judas rejected him, and made what he could out of the shambles—thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. For Judas the “short term” did not pay off.

We must not fall prey to the “short term” view of life. In this Mass we should pray for the grace to see through all the problems and duties of this life, to the person of Jesus who gives the promise of eternal life. Let us hail Jesus as our King and recognize that he is Lord of both the here and the hereafter.

O.J.M.