The word of the cross, and the promise of the Resurrectio

This Sunday we enter into the week of our salvation. Our lives as Catholics flow from the events we remember on Passion Sunday and in the days that follow until Easter. Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, his Last Supper, his agony in the Garden, his passion and death on the cross, his resurrection - these events changed the course of world history. Hardly anybody recognized it at the time. Historians of the day took little notice. That's how it is with the things of God. God moves in hidden and mysterious ways. God's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Jesus compared God's Kingdom to the yeast that makes bread rise and to the tiny seed that grows into a large tree. God is content to work in the background, unfolding his plans behind the scenes. For our salvation he did not rend the heavens and come down leading 12 legions of angels. Jesus came unnoticed, humbling himself to be born as an infant in a mother's womb. To redeem us from sin and death, he chose to suffer and die as a criminal, hanged on a tree, humiliated by the authorities, mocked by the crowds. His closest followers deserted him, leaving only his mother, a few women and one disciple to keep a lonely vigil at the foot of his cross. Yet death could not hold him. And the experience of his resurrection made the small band of his apostles bold to proclaim his Gospel and doctrine - despite the threat of torture and death. Within a generation or two, the tiny Church he founded was transforming the Roman Empire from the bottom up and the inside out. Not through politics and not by violence. But by the force of people simply living his teachings without compromise. God does not need to act by big, earth-shattering events. His way is little. It is the way of love, the way of the cross. But we need eyes of faith to see the "greater things" he has promised to those who believe. We need ears to hear what St. Paul called "the word of the cross" (1 Corinthians 1: 18). The crowds who followed him to the gates of Jerusalem were expecting a Messiah-King to redeem them from their enemies and restore the kingdom to Israel. When they saw Jesus riding on a donkey, they believed Zechariah's prophecy was being fulfilled: "Behold your king … humble, and mounted on an ass." As a sign of their humble submission, they spread their clothes on the ground for Jesus to walk upon. They weren't expecting their King to be arrested, scourged and killed. They didn't understand yet that his Kingdom was not of this world. Matthew's Gospel tells us: "When he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred" (Matthew 21: 10). The Greek word here is also used to describe the tremors caused by an earthquake. The sense is that the people are literally "quaking" with expectation. I can't hear that word today without praying for our sisters and brothers in Japan, still suffering the aftershocks of the earthquake and tsunami. I find myself thinking and praying about the many worries and troubles that stir people's hearts today. Many are very worried right now about the state of the economy and the national budget crisis. Many are anxious over the debates in Sacramento and state capitals across the country - crucial debates about the priorities and purposes of government, and its size and reach. This Holy Week reminds us to keep a spiritual perspective. We need to see everything in the light of the Blessed One who comes to us in this Holy Week. In his cross, we see how much he loves each one of us. By his cross and resurrection, he has won the victory for us. He makes it possible for us overcome sin and death. At Jerusalem's gates, Jesus wept because the people didn't realize their God had come to them. He wept because they wouldn't convert their hearts - to seek in him the things that make for peace. As we pray for one another this week, let us open wide the gates of our hearts. Let us welcome Jesus into our lives with rejoicing and love. His Kingdom is still growing in our midst, although still today many do not recognize it. His Kingdom grows with each little victory we make over our selfishness and weakness. His Kingdom grows through every little act of love we make, through every beautiful thing we do for God. I ask Our Lady of Guadalupe to watch over your families during this Holy Week. I ask that she help you to always hear the word of the cross and to know the promise of your resurrection.