When You Come Into Your Kingdom

When You Come Into Your Kingdom April 3, 2023


I went to Mass.

I’m not saying you should do what I do. If you have religious trauma like mine, you probably shouldn’t. But I used to love Holy Week so much, I decided to try it out.

It hurt like hell.

I guess there’s a certain appropriateness to that.

I stood in the foyer and couldn’t get any further. My stomach started to churn as soon as I saw the priests in their red robes. My heart raced. I scrolled and played games on my phone so I wouldn’t have another panic attack.

I’ve been a Catholic since November of 1984, one month after I was born, so that makes thirty-nine times I’ve heard the readings for Palm Sunday.  I don’t know how many other times I’ve read or studied them. I could probably recite the whole Mass by heart.

“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”

A few days more and they will be screaming for Rome to lynch Him, and Jesus knew it. He knew it so well He called Peter “Satan” for insisting it wouldn’t end that way. Why did He do that? What does it mean? Peter is supposed to be the most important one. He’ll go down in history as the first Pope, the very first leader of this Church that has cost me everything. Peter denies that Jesus is going to be turned on by the crowds who praised Him. Peter denies that Jesus is going to be murdered. And Jesus calls him Satan, a name that means “The Accuser,” for denying it. This is how the Catholic Church began.

The Lord GOD has given me
    a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
    a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
    he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
    have not turned back.

I think that was me, a long time ago. I always used to know what to say. I studied the Bible and the Baltimore Catechism and showed up at youth group with all the answers. I was sure I could shout down the heretics and win souls for Christ. Lately my combox trolls call me a “murderer of souls,” and they’re probably right.

The Lord GOD is my help,

    therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
    knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

I wish my face was flint.

I wish I believed I would not be put to shame. I wish I were that naïve again.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

What a terrible psalm that is: a man wondering why God has disappeared as he’s torn apart by dogs.

I was once told that Jesus couldn’t possibly be buried in a tomb, because the corpses of crucifixion victims at that time in history were fed to wild dogs. The thought of that made me sick– though it also reminded me of Jesus’s nasty rebuke to the Syrophoenician woman about not feeding the bread meant for children to the dogs. I’ve given myself permission to doubt everything right now. I don’t shame myself for disbelieving what I was taught. But I hope the Body of Jesus went into a tomb. I hope Pilate remembered his wife’s dream and at least let Joseph have the body. I hope the Gospels were right about that.

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
    in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, praise him;
    all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
    revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”

How can you say such a thing when you’re being torn apart by dogs?

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    coming in human likeness;
    and found human in appearance,
    he humbled himself,
    becoming obedient to the point of death,
    even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
    and bestowed on him the name
    which is above every name.

Christ Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped?

Why not?

Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

Aren’t you supposed to grasp at equality with God? Isn’t that why I came out here: to do all the right things and follow every rule, so that I could be taken up to be one with God? That’s what a saint is: someone who’s in Heaven and become one with God. I wanted to be a saint more than anything.

What’s greater than being a saint?

To empty yourself, coming in human likeness? To die on a cross?

Does God really value becoming human, dwelling among us, and suffering what we suffer, more than God values being God? What kind of blasphemy is that?

That kind of blasphemy will get you crucified.

Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me. 

Surely it is not I, Lord. 

You have said so. 

What kind of an answer is that? “You have said so.” It’s the same thing He says to the priests when they ask if He is the Christ. He says it again to Pilate.  It’s very close to the question He asks Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” Why is what we say important? Why do we have to say anything?

As for Peter, the first Pope, he makes a fool of himself, sleeps through the Lord’s agony in Gethsemane, denies Him three times, and runs away. That is how the Catholic Church began.

“My Father, if it is possible,
let this cup pass from me;
yet, not as I will, but as you will.”

Who heard Him say that? If everyone was asleep, who wrote it down?

His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying,
“The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.”
Immediately he went over to Jesus and said,
“Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him.
Jesus answered him,
“Friend, do what you have come for.”

Judas was the one who looked like he was doing everything right. Judas wasn’t asleep. Judas was wide awake. Judas approached the Lord with the perfect greeting and gave Him a kiss. If you happened upon the garden just at that moment, you’d have thought he was the very best disciple: reverent, courteous. Why, even Jesus calls him “Friend.”

The apostles, the very fist bishops, have so much bravado at first. They make a show of trying to defend Him, violently, but He won’t have it. So they run.

The Pope and all the apostles run. The reverent one returns the price of blood and hangs Himself.  And Jesus is dragged between the priests and the Roman authorities for all of the next morning. The priests had knowledge of holy things and every kind of spiritual gift– why, Caiaphas even prophesied rightly that one man should die for the sake of the people. Rome had all the power and the authority. The Catholic Church has all of those put together.

The Church is Judas the reverent one, Peter the worthless one, all those silly apostles, the priests, the Roman empire. All killed Christ, and they spent the price of killing Christ as a burial ground for foreigners.

Then Pilate said to him,
“Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”
But he did not answer him one word,
so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Why does the Lord not speak?

He’s said so much. He’s spoken with nearly everyone who wanted a word with Him.

Now, He’s got the ear of Rome, Rome the ruler of the whole world, Rome the future capital of this nightmare of a Church, and He’s silent.

The people who were crying “Hosanna” less than a week ago are now screaming for Pilate to release Barabbas, a man whose name means “Son of the Father.” Jesus is also the Son of the Father. All of us are called to be children of the Father, but there is only one begotten Son, and the people don’t choose that Son of the Father. They choose the robber. This is how the Catholic Church began.

Pilate takes Jesus and has Him scourged.

Someone once told me that the scourging before crucifixion was meant to put the victim in a state of shock– the medical name for a person bleeding so badly that blood isn’t getting to their organs anymore. Jesus, in a state of shock, is further tortured by the Roman guards who kneel and say “Ave” and call Him king, just as we do today. And then they take Him out to murder Him.

As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon;
this man they pressed into service
to carry his cross.

How many Simons has the Church pressed into carrying the cross they imposed on Christ?

“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”

And Jesus bears it all.

Jesus suffers it all.

Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross.

“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save Him.” 

But Elijah did not.

But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

And we all knelt, and so did I, out in the foyer of that church, my phone still in my hand, trying not to have a panic attack.

Christ did not become a Pope. Christ did not become a Bishop. Christ did not become the High Priest or the Roman Emperor. Christ did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Christ emptied Himself and became one with the victims of His Church.

When it was evening,
there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph,
who was himself a disciple of Jesus.
He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus;
then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.
Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen
and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock.
Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb
and departed.

Oh please, please, let it be true. Let them have taken the body of Jesus down and laid it in a tomb. Let them have rolled the stone over the entrance and gone away.

But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

I think I’ll be another Mary and stay here with them.

I realize that, in spite of everything, I still believe.

I believe because it’s all so preposterous. Whoever heard of a God who regarded His divinity as nothing, and came down to suffer with the people His worshippers utterly despise?

Why would anyone make up a story so silly? Who would believe it?

Because of this, God greatly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name. 

I didn’t have the courage to receive Holy Communion.

I don’t know if I’ll ever receive Holy Communion again.

O Sacred Head surrounded by crown of piercing thorn.

The priest came to the back to give Holy Communion to the disabled, and I stared at the Host, the Bread that wasn’t thrown to the dogs. All around me were people chewing Him up and mixing Him with their spittle, swallowing Him, reducing Him to nothing.

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
    in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, praise him;
    all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
    revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

This day, you will be with me in Paradise. 

This is how the Catholic Church began.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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