March 24, 2013


Today marks another milestone in our liturgical and popular religiosity as Filipinos. Palm Sunday ushers in for us Holy Week, the most colorful week in our collective consciousness. If the Christmas novena is the most awaited, most joyful and most filled with happy and hopeful expectations, Holy Week fills us with thoughts and feelings associated with penitence, repentance, conversion, and both the need and the possibility for anyone to turn a new leaf, start afresh, and begin again on a clean slate.

The Lord goes up to Jerusalem – up, not down, for Jerusalem was a city built on a mountain. But the Lord does not go there alone. And neither does he enter alone, unnoticed, incognito, ignored. No … he entered with a bang, not a whimper. He got in in triumph, not in silence. For people welcomed him with everything they could lay their hands on … pieces of clothing, branches of trees, and presumably, a lot of palm fronds, for that was most common then in those times.

They welcomed him and proclaimed: “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

You might say, indeed, that Jesus got in to the city with many followers, many more welcomers, and a lot of well-wishers. His coming was not exactly glossed over by both the hoi polloi and the authorities, for nothing that attracts a crowd like that ever escapes the notice of the ruling class and the snobbish elite, and especially those whose job it was to maintain the pax Romana, the Roman brand of peace and order that came with fear and/or force.

But sic transit gloria mundi … so goes the way of glory in this world … Hardly had they welcomed him who came in the name of the Lord, than they turned their backs against him a few days after. Soon, the hosannas were transformed into hate, and the joy turned to condemnation. The celebration soon became excruciating crucifixion for him who came in God’s name!

This is the story of us. This is the way of all flesh. This is how we were, we are, and will be – sinful mass of humanity – the massa damnata that St. Augustine pessimistically referred to. We are all in it together. We are all part of it. For we all fell short of the glory of God!

Now, given the fact that on two occasions in the year, we Filipinos wax very pious, suggestible, and impressionable (not that it is bad!), and “holy” (whatever it is you understand by it), I guess today, like on Christmas Day, we are ready and willing to hear a thing or two about us that we’d rather not think about when we are in the midst of all the worldly frivolities during the rest of the 365 days.

Yes … and I mean it. And I dare say this for we are all open and welcoming enough to hear it this one time in the year … We’ve heard it before. We sort of agree with it on a good day, when we are not hard pressed by all the stresses that come with modernity and globalization … It is no secret. It is no rocket science. It is no earth-shattering novel truth, but as ageless and timeless as the world itself … And it is this …

We are all sinners. We are all like those multitudes who came – and went away as fast as they could gather up their cloaks and fronds and branches from the “crime scene.” Now, we are all excited to see Him and touch Him … Now, we are indifferent and couldn’t care less about Him. We sin … and sin gravely … and sin bravely a la Luther!

We make for very good welcomers and guest relation officers. We make for great welcoming committees … and we do it with panache … in style … in fashion. We even know the right words to put on our tarpaulins. We know, what words to post on our facebook walls. We claim to be Catholics. We swear we are welcomers and lovers of Him who comes in the name of the Lord. We profess our being followers of the Lord!

But so did the Jerusalem crowds! So did so many of them who parted with their cloaks and made of them instant carpets for the Lord to walk on. So did so many legislators and pundits in our midst who swear they believe in God, but do not belong to the Church. So do those who write and craft laws … they claim to be Catholics, but also in the same breath state they are pro-choice, pro-abortion, pro this and pro that – and in the process be anti God, anti-Church, anti everyone else who tells them otherwise.

There were many ertswhile followers when the Lord entered the famed city. We were probably one of them. But those same followers turned coat and changed political parties midstream, when the elections mattered most, when popularity swayed the other way – away from God, away from the truth, away from Him who was “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Let us face it… The Lord does not need followers per se. What He needs is disciples. And only the few, the brave, the decided – the disciples – stayed on with him, come hell or high water.

What about you? Will you also go away? Or have you come to stay?