In the last book of The Lord of the Rings triology, The Return of the King, a major storyline is the fate of the Kingdom of Gondor, a great kingdom that has been without a king for nearly eight hundred years. Under the rule of steward regents, Gondor weakened slowly until eventually it stood on the verge of collapse. Finally, just as enemy forces were preparing to attack and wipe out the city, the long-lost rightful heir to the kingdom surfaced, accompanied by a large army able to save the city from certain destruction. Despite official protestations to the contrary, the Steward of Gondor did everything that he could to block the return of the king. He preferred maintaining control of the falling kingdom to allowing the rightful king to rule him and save the city. “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.”
Today we observe liturgically the original return of the King, Christ’s riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Profound paradox marks this triumphal entrance. The crowds hail Jesus as the Messiah, but just days later they will cry out, “Crucify him!” Our lives as Christians reflect this paradox. We profess Jesus as Lord, but Church history is replete with examples of ways in which Christians have failed to live in a manner that is consistent with that profession. The news gives us even more evidence that this is case in the Church today. Any honest examination of conscience reveals that most of us struggle with this paradox at various moments throughout the week. We say that we want Jesus to be our King, but very often our way of life does not reflect our words. Too frequently, we make honor, power, pleasure and money into our kings.
Holy Week is a reminder that we cannot confess Jesus as our King except in the Holy Spirit. The crowds hailed Jesus as King, but did not do so in the Holy Spirit and in a short period of time, they turned on Him. On this Palm Sunday we ask the Father to send His Holy Spirit to us so that when we sing “Hosanna to the son of David” it might not be merely lip service but the confession of a heart that has been crucified to sin and is ready to the welcome Jesus as Lord.