In observance of the Christian Holy Week, majority of the Filipinos started their week-long activities which started on Palm Sunday and would end on Easter Sunday. The Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40).
Verse 37 to verse 40 of Luke, chapter 19, states:
“As he (Jesus) was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:37-40 RSV)
The messages are: (1) the people (multitude) proclaimed their liberation to be led by a King (a ruler during the time of Jesus), 2) the Pharisees (one of the groups of the existing rulers) wanted to stop the chanting of liberation, and (3) Jesus taught the Pharisees that if the multitude will be stopped in their chanting, the “stones would cry out.”
Why the “stones would cry out”? What is the use of a stone? In reality, the stones are used is symbolism or imagery. The stones are used as the foundation of a building, a foundation of a church (Mt.16:18). The stones are also used to remind about the anawim, the poor people of God who are outcasts or marginalized. They are the despised people (Acts 4:11). The stones can be also transformed as the rock or barren stone during John the Baptist time which can be useful “children” of God (Luke 3:8). The stones are also used in punishing a sinner (John 8:4-7) but would remind those people who would execute the punishment must be unblemished.
From Jesus’ point of view, when he said: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out,” he meant it of the people’s strong conviction and faith. It is impossible to silence the people because their conviction and faith is strong as the stones.
The stone as a symbol of commitment is very important in the present Philippine society. Using the imageries of the stone, one may reflect with the following points:
- The stone as the foundation of a building, a foundation of a church, a foundation of the nation is a process that needs nurturance.
The foundation of the building or house must be a living stone. The stone, how rough is it, it should be a strong kind of stone from the living river or from the earth of the soil. It is a rock that symbolize the faith of Simon or Apostle Peter.
If the stones to be used in building a Temple (as Herod’s Temple), the stones used are the local limestones. The limestones around the mountains of Jerusalem need a system of quarrying. It will start with stonecutting using the dry wooden beams to separate the broken stones, then to be transported to the place of the building using the oxen. This process of bringing the limestones to become a foundation of a building is hard and tedious.
To symbolize the faith of the people, the stones start with unpolished or not pure. The faith has to be nurtured for a time. The cry or chant of the people during Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem has been tested already. They know that a liberator, in Jesus, has come. They will not be silent
- The stones as despised people but need liberation.
Jesus as presented by the Gospel of Luke has compassion on the poor, women, Samaritans, sinners, tax collectors and outcasts of all sorts. Jesus eats with the sinners (5:30), his teaching focuses on the dangers of wealth and the need for social justice (16:13; 18:24), he defends the woman who weeps at his feet (7:36-50) and praises the Samaritan leper who returns to give thanks (17:11-19).
The inclusive meals and table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners were so characteristic of Jesus’ mission in the synoptic traditions (Mark 2:15-16; Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Like the Old Testament prophets, Jesus was committed to bringing Israel back to God and was in search of the lost sheep of Israel—sinners and those who lived on the margins of the Jewish community (Luke 4: 16-21; 15:6; Matthew 10:6).
They are the anawim of God and need liberation from their present status.
- The stone as the power of the poor.
The poor in Luke 4:18, is not just the poor but rather the economically destitute—the ones who are desperately in want.
The Hebrew term for the anawim has a broader connotation. The anawim refers not just to the economically destitute, but include the widows, orphans, refugees, the mentally ill, the physically challenged, the outcast, and the sick—all those who are victims of one or another form of oppression or exclusion.
Jesus announced his mission as to bring good news to the poor, he announced God’s blessing on the poor (Luke 6:20).
In Mary’s Magnificat:”the Lord lift up the lowly and sending the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53), means the oppressive and dehumanizing poverty is an evil state. It needs to be completely eradicated from the face of the earth. Jesus’ mission of bringing good news to the poor, he identified himself with them and remained totally committed to changing the plight and destiny of the poor.
Jesus became the power of the poor. Jesus is the stone who empower the poor.
- The stone as instrument of judgment and resistance.
As disciples of Jesus, all Christians are called to participate in Jesus’s mission of bringing good news to the poor. Jesus proclamation of deliverance of God’s promise of liberation for all the poor and marginalized regardless of nationality, gender, or race, it implied that those are economically poor, the socially excluded, the politically oppressed, the culturally marginalized, the sexually exploited, the mentally harassed, the humanly abandoned, and the religiously persecuted.
Jesus was the good news, and his disciples must become the good news themselves and urge to proclaim, not so much by more words as rather by our life. Jesus presented God’s love to people in the way he lived, that is, in feeding the hungry, comforting the humiliated, celebrating the dignity of women, healing the sick, and giving hope to the hopeless, sight to the blind, freedom to the captives and sinners, justice to the poor, and life to the dead.
The judgment of God in Jesus Christ is the resistance of his disciples to change the situation of the anawim.
The “cry” of the stones
The “cry” of the stones is the cry for liberation, compassion, conviction, steadfast struggle and fulfillment.
- The “cry” is the liberation of Jesus.
It was a proclamation of victory. A victory from the action of Jesus himself. Jesus was first liberated. Jesus himself was able to overcome his fears, his weaknesses and limitations. Jesus had overcome his self-centeredness. His submission in offering his own life in the service of his people is an obedience to God. It must be understood that Jesus’ decision to go to Jerusalem was a very painful decision. In entering Jerusalem, Jesus would confront the powers-that-be: the powers of Herod, of Pilate, of Annas and Caiphas, and the elders of Jerusalem, the powers of the Sanhedrin. And Jesus knew for sure that those ruling people would make him suffer and die. Thus, the “cry” is the liberation of Jesus.
- The “cry” is motivated with compassion.
Jesus was moved with compassion, because the people were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36). Jesus knew that without such compassion that would permeate and transform the whole rubric of human relations, the people would continue to cry out for genuine change. They would continue to cry out, “hosanna!” Jesus’ acquaintances and encounters of different characters and interests of people, his compassion with people is rooted from his experience with them. The “cry” of compassion is the “cry” of the people who experienced the dehumanization of society.
- The “cry” is rooted in the faith or conviction.
Jesus’ radical poverty, unconditional love and the profound openness to the will of God has been the source of inspiration for the daily life of the people. Christians are called to make their own identification like Jesus being identified with the poor, his blazing anger at injustice, human rights violations and discrimination against women, his radical inclusive approach, and his passion for God’s reign. They are called to say yes to God, to self, and to God’s people. They always in favour of God’s choices of the less privileged ones in the church and society, making God’s reign or God’s intervention into human history more and more visible. They have to be the people of faith and strong conviction.
- The “cry” is the steadfast struggle of the poor.
The “cry” must be used to push forward the struggle of the anawim. The cry of the stones at present time is a cry for change – genuine and meaningful change in society, in the church and society, but even more importantly in the people themselves. The genuine change for the people is not easy to achieve. But then, Jesus’ words remind his disciples about the truth. The truth that God’s purpose for humanity cannot be hindered by anyone, not even the acclaimed religiosity of the Pharisees. “If these were silent, the stones would cry out!” The “cry” of the people as hard, strong and unshakable commitment is the “cry” to liberate the anawim.
- The “cry” is the mission of the anawim which must be fulfilled.
In order to celebrate the Easter or Resurrection of the Messiah, the Church must struggle to become a true church of the anawim and fulfilled its mission. Pope Francis said, “If we want to help change history and promote real development, we need to hear the cry of the poor and commit ourselves to ending their marginalization.” Hence, the Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, those who participated in his march must also have the same courage and compassion that of Jesus. So that they may also be able to continue crying out, “hosanna!” God save us! Save the Philippines from destruction! Save the people from disunity and discord!
The multitude, the anawim, the people of God must carry on the struggle until the time that God’s saving purpose is fulfilled. For the moment that the they stopped in crying out for genuine change, “the stones would cry out,” as Jesus said will lost its meaning, importance and relevance.