What a fall! That was a real fall from grace. He used to be flavour of the month. She could do no wrong. Everything she touched turned to gold. Local boy makes good.
These, and many more we could add, are all examples of statements we use to describe or evaluate each other. However, more than this, far be it a harmless neutral summing up of the other, such statements tend to be somewhat dismissive of the other. Worse still, in addition to this judgemental dismissal, there is, if we are honest, a certain amount of satisfaction or glee at the others downfall. The truth is that the tide can turn quickly. For anyone.
There is in a way a great example of this in the events of Holy Week. It is hard to believe that in a few short days the crowd shifts from ‘Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord’ to ‘Crucify him!’
It is indeed a short donkey ride from fame to disgrace. The walk from popularity to ridicule is in fact a short step. Thus begins the events of Holy Week.
Once again we are reminded that there is much more to the sufferings of Jesus than the starkness of scourging, crowning with thorns and crucifixion itself. We should not miss the mental anguish of Gethsemane. Nor should we forget the shame, public humiliation and scorn evident in the dark days around the Passion. One of the reasons for not missing all this is because of the grace it offers us in a whole variety of human circumstances. It is unlikely that we will actually be scourged or crowned in this way. However it is a distinct possibility that we will encounter ridicule and scorn.
In St. John’s Gospel Jesus says, ‘As for human approval, this means nothing to me’. ( Jn 5: 41) Of course Jesus says this because of the Spirit within him. He can say this because he is from God. Of God. Is God. The only approval that matters for Jesus is the approval of the Father. The Father’s love is the only thing that counts.
A very challenging question for us that emerges at this, the beginning of Holy Week, is our own relationship with human approval? How important is the applause? How crucial is the fan club? What’s more important: to be told how wonderful we are by people or to know that we are giving honour to God who made us and who loves us totally and completely?
THE DONKEY by G.K. CHESTERTON
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four footed things
The tattered outlaw of the earth
Of ancient crooked will
Starve, scourge deride me: I am dumb
I keep my secret still
Fools! For I also had my hour
One far fierce hour and sweet
There was a shout about my ears
And palms before my feet.