Spiritual Reflection – Cloaks and Branches
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road – Matthew 21:8
Matthew’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, some onlookers removed their cloaks and spread them on the road ahead of him, while others cut down branches from trees and spread those on the road before him. The cloaks and branches were to welcome Jesus.
After the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus headed up to the Mount of Olives. Then he was arrested and marched to the high priest’s house where he was questioned before being taken, first to Pilate’s palace, then to Herod’s headquarters, and then back again to Pilate where he was condemned and taken out to be crucified at Golgotha.
Jesus entered Jerusalem two thousand years ago and died on the cross as a sign of God’s love for the world, and he moves among us still as an expression of that divine love. And where is he heading now? He seeks to arrive at the very centre of our lives, to take up residence in our hearts.
For those Christians who regularly receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, we are familiar with the invitation of the priest to us to “lift up our hearts”. We respond by saying, “We lift them to the Lord”. We are invited to open our hearts to God and let Him in.
In this ever increasing secular world in which we live, the notion of a divine presence seeking to enter our hearts, will more than likely be met with great skepticism. Even we believers may have allowed our hearts to become hardened through familiarity, and even neglect. In such cases, our hearts need to be broken or softened so as to be receptive to God and His love. There are two ways in which this might be done.
The first is for us to lay before Jesus our cloaks of fear. Fear is the enemy of faith, because it causes us to focus on our circumstances rather than on the certainty of God’s unfailing love. It is a matter of focus and trust.
C. S. Lewis once wrote a series of letters to an American woman struggling with a life threatening illness. He acknowledged that her pain must be terrible, but then he asked her, “Surely you need not have fear as well?” He counselled her with the following comforting (but challenging) words: “Remember, although we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way around – we get afraid because we struggle. Don’t you know Our Lord says to ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go, I will catch you.’”
Second, we should lay down our branches of pride. Pride is the excessive belief in our own abilities, which prevents us from recognizing our need for God. Pride keeps our hearts hardened and therefore unable to receive God’s love.
To allow the love of God to enter our hearts and take up residence there, we must lay down our fears and our pride – just like the cloaks and branches that were laid down before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. Cloaks and branches to welcome Jesus!
Rawls, James J.. On the Way: 100 Reflections on the Journey of Faith. WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.