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Betrayal and… Triumph

Many gathered inside and outside the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, the lead church of the Archdiocese of Caceres, waving palm branches cheerfully on Palm Sunday, March 24. This tradition transpires worldwide every Holy Week since time immemorial. Many do not know that this one week that Christians commemorate is not simply a ritual of what is known as the Passion and Death of Jesus, who led his 12 disciples to join him in his Last Supper and then died the next day. It is a story of betrayal and triumph. It connects to our life experiences. The tradition is that Holy Week starts with a happy welcome on Palm Sunday, Wednesday betrayal, and the death on Friday. It ends on Easter Sunday when the dead rose again to symbolize the triumph of the good. 

For those who wish to give more meaning to the biblical Holy Week, it is a look back to the life and struggle of Jesus, a worker’s son from the town of Galilee who defied the oppressive Roman authorities in Jerusalem that saw him and his fledgling followers as a threat to the high and mighty. Their entry into Jerusalem marked a whole week of intense surveillance, harassment, arrests of believers and followers, and most of all, betrayals and denials. Jesus was a marked man for his subversive ideas and preachings against the oppressive rule of the Romans, who lived for their selfish interests. Jesus and his disciples protested as a holy act of righteousness.

The world’s history is full of contradictions and conflicts that run in a circle, just like Jesus’s Passion and Crucifixion. Centuries ago, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, now known in the Christian world as Palm Sunday, with many people welcoming him with palm branches, a symbol of victory, peace, and protection in ancient times, ignited the week-long events of betrayals that culminated in Jesus’s death.

Called the Holy Week, after Palm Sunday came Monday and Tuesday spent with the disciples praying and performing good deeds; Wednesday, when a disciple named Judas Iscariot plotted to betray Jesus and another named Peter denied Jesus was known to him, and the meeting at the Last Supper that Jesus shared with their disciples culminating on Friday when he died on the Cross after hours of excruciating physical torture and verbal abuse in the hands of the Roman soldiers and civilian tormentors. 

Flash forward to today, over in the Middle East, on Palm Sunday, there were reports that Israeli authorities barred Christian Palestinians from joining the commemorative events in Jerusalem. Ironically, the Holy Week continues to remind and be remembered while the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas persists in the region. In their official statement, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Israel’s action and called for “binding international measures to ensure the freedom of access for Palestinians to their holy capital.” It will be remembered that Israel, in 1967, occupied East Jerusalem during the Israel-Palestine war. Israel annexed the entire city in 1980, an action never recognized by the international community—considered a betrayal of international agreements.

Kumusta na

That Sunday, I carried the Pagaspas or Palm wreaths to wave and greet the priest at the Cathedral who represented Jesus in his stead and a thousand other churchgoers, hoping the holy water sprinkled from the church bottle would reach my Pagaspas. I wished I would receive more blessings and be protected from the world’s evils if more of the holy sprinkled water would spray upon me. Then, as the solemn procession of young sacristans approached, I heard a voice in front of me: “Kumusta na Manay.” Fr Domingo Florida, the parish priest, looked at me and smiled, seeing a familiar face among the multitude. Yes, Fr. Florida celebrated the Palm Sunday that day, and he had said Masses at Mariners several times at the School Chapel. I hoped and assumed I had gained more blessings and protection with that simple gesture.

Yes, indeed, kumusta na ang bawat isa sa atin? Kumusta na ang bawat nananalig o hindi nananalig sa atin? 

Kumusta na ang ating kaibigan, kapatid, asawa, minamahal, anak, kamag-anak, at katrabaho? 

A Judas among us

Palm Sunday was the welcome greetings of the people to the City of Jerusalem for Jesus, who led twelve disciples from among his close comrades and friends dedicated to his preachings of hope and liberation against injustice and oppression. One of the 12 was Judas Iscariot, who committed the ultimate betrayal against Jesus for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver, a day’s wage at that time. Biblical tradition says Judas betrayed Jesus on Wednesday, and his betrayal was “discovered” by the many on Thursday at the Last Supper. The following day, Friday, the higher Roman authorities arrested Jesus, beat and tortured him, and hanged and nailed him on the Cross. Buried before sundown, he was buried. 

There is a Judas among us who may betray our friendship, love, and trust in exchange for personal gain and aggrandizement. Betrayals of friends and relatives persist for a common purpose: self-interest or obsession for individual power to gain money or personal attention. Jesus was betrayed many times, yet his goodness prevailed and triumphed.

A timely reflection on Mark 8:36: For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? 


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