Editor’s note: Article originally published on March 29, 2021.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the most sacred time in the Christian calendar Holy Week. As a cradle Catholic who attended Catholic schools my entire life, I have heard the extended gospel readings about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem many times. On top of that I studied graduate level theology and read spiritual works for fun. I am not telling you this to boast, but rather to set forth my struggle when it comes to these important feast days: how can I learn something new when I have heard the same readings that I nearly have them committed to memory!
Same Old Story
Sadly, I had this same mindset this morning before Mass. Remarkably, we arrived at the church with a few minutes to spar. After we found a pew, our three-year-old started asking about food (the #1 topic for toddlers!), specifically granola bars. To my dismay, I realized that I failed to stock the mass bag with snacks. I figured Palm Sunday 2019 would end up in a power struggle with a toddler and bitterness over not being able to pay attention to the liturgy. Miraculously, he did not dwell on the granola bars, and I was able to listen to all of the readings including the entirety of the LOTR length Gospel feature!
In between working to keep our children assuaged and paying attention to the Gospel, I noticed a peculiar line that I never heard before. Well, I probably heard that verse, but it probably never registered on my theological radar because I grew lukewarm in my faith. Making a mental note for me to check the passage later I continued to listen to the Gospel. Later in the day, I looked up Luke’s Gospel and found that peculiar verse—Luke 23:12. It reads “Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though had been enemies formerly.”
Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend
The classic cliche “an enemy of my enemy is my friend” rings true for Herod and Pilate’s relationship in Palm Sunday’s Gospel. Both men were earthly rulers: a Jewish king and a Roman prefect. During the first century, the Roman Empire occupied the land of Judea. Charges against Jesus in Luke 23:2 include “tax evasion” against the Romans and blasphemy as he claimed to be God.
According to Christian tradition, the historian Eusebius, ““Luke, who was by race an Antiochian and a physician by profession” (Eccl. Hist. 3.4). The meticulous nature of St. Luke’s prose especially in the prologue of his Gospel makes his passing reference at the sudden friendship of Herod and Pilate mysterious.
Both Herod and Pilate presided over the trial of an innocent man. Both leaders gave in to external pressures to sentence an innocent victim to death. The former had John the Baptist beheaded at the behest of his vile wife, and of course Pilate caved into the pressures of the Jewish religious leaders to have Jesus Crucified. American author Leo Buscaglia declared; I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.” Neither Herod nor Pilate “hated” John and Jesus. They balked at sentencing, but because of their weak wills, lukewarmness, and ultimate selfish desire to stay in power they caved to social pressures. Herod and Pilate’s actions showed an apathy over love of God.
Will You Display Half-heartedness this Holy Week?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2094, “lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.” Wow! I did not realize the harshness associated with a lukewarm attitude. Possessing a spiritual “meh” attitude poses dangers of losing out on love. Will you aim to be holy the WHOLE holy week or merely haphazardly? The Holy Spirit prompted me to wake up when I heard Luke 23:12. Lent 2019 I have been mostly a Herod or a Pilate— apathetic toward true love seeking mostly control of my life. The good news is Holy Week is here. We can re-start our faith journey with a triumphal entry like Jesus. Let us ask for the gift of humility and the courage to avoid spiritual lukewarmness.