The Palms

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, amidst cheering and waving of palms, has political significance: not only because the crowd instinctively recognises him as the head of their people but also because, in this circumstance, he himself, the peaceful leader, offers a message of political worth.

On that day, therefore, whilst the multitudes (today we would say ‘crowds’) proclaim him King of Israel, Jesus Christ comes down from the Mount of Olives and – before the whole of Jerusalem, with its white houses and its people gathered around the splendid Temple, in the midst of everyone’s joy – he bursts into tears and cries out: ‘If you too had only recognised on this day the way to peace! But in fact it is hidden from your eyes!

Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you, because you did not recognise the moment of your visitation.”

That same day however, the heads of the nation, contrary to the sentiments of the people, rejected his program of peace and confirmed their program of war. That same day they decided definitively to rid themselves of the peaceful Messiah who arrived to Jerusalem on a donkey because this scarlet hero put them face to face with their belligerent messianism.

The entrance into Jerusalem was therefore the celebration of pacific messianism, that is, of a sui generis politics which is crushed by the old sort of politics; an old politics which believed (and which perhaps would believe again) in God and his law but trusted (and would trust again) more in the sword that in the squires; more in army tanks than in the Sinai announcement. This decrepit, lunatic politics sows war even in peace treaties, transforms a nation into an army and turns farmer’s fields into battle grounds.

Jesus’ messianic politics can be summarised under the heading ‘Kingdom of God’: a regime whose constitution is God’s law, a regime that upholds God as its purpose and principle. The nation is organised therein: God’s nation, guided on the tracks of peace. This kingdom of God also translates into a social constitution: it’s law is the Gospel and it entails unity, solidarity, equality, paternity, social service, justice, rationality, truth; it fights against war, tyranny, enmity, error, stupidity…

To search for the Kingdom of God therefore is to search for the happiest conditions for the life of the individual and of society. And this is easy to understand: where God reigns, man is God’s son, a being of infinite worth, who treats other men as brothers, who is treated as a brother by other men, who does unto others as he would have done unto him. In God’s kingdom the world’s goods are fraternally put in common and love circulates with forgiveness; frontiers are worthless, senseless because of the universality of love. Putting the Kingdom of God before all else therefore means raising life’s goal. In this sense we too can say that Christ has “overcome the world”.

Beyond this meaning, Jesus doesn’t deal with politics, nor do the apostles. But their teaching contains principles that, if not of a practical, immediate, biased political nature, they are of soaring and guiding wisdom which supports the great and universal art of governance in every age. Jesus doesn’t touch existing institutions, he transforms their spirit by transforming sentiments of men. He doesn’t tell the soldiers to desert their duties, nor does he tell the tax-collectors to abandon office or the members of the Sanhedrin to step down from the Supreme Court: he simply tells them to carry out their work with a new spirit. He doesn’t create commotion, he brings about revolution. He does this by transforming the spirit there where it needs to be transformed.

(Igino Giordani, Le Feste, SEI, Torino, 1954, pp. 104-110).

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