By HH Pope Shenouda III
Orthodox Christians celebrate Palm Sunday today, when Christ was received in Jerusalem with olive branches and palm tree leaves.
And on this occasion we want to reflect on an important spiritual point about which to choose: Pain or Glory?
On that day Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and his fame as a teacher has astonished many people, as well as his miracles and healing of the sick, resuscitating the dead and casting out devils, doing what no one has done before. Moreover, being known as a huge public leader had gathered around him many hearts with love and admiration.
So he was received by the people of Jerusalem as the king, with palm tree leaves and olive branches, and the loud cheering, and they wanted to inaugurate Him as their king, in order to save them from the Roman rule, and maintain for them a powerful kingdom of prestige and power, and return to them the greatness of Solomon.
But Jesus refused to be king, and rejected the earthly Kingdom, as He wanted to form a spiritual Kingdom where He would reign on the hearts, not an earthly kingdom of the throne and scepter, of soldiers and knights.
He knew that the Jews were thinking about the earthly secular world, in pursuit of power, fame and influence. So, He came to save them and save the world from this earthly, materialistic perspective. He did not come into the world to be the king of the Jews and bring to them the world, but on the contrary, to save them from its desires.
Rejecting the idea of being the earthly King, had made those Jews reject Him, and conspired to kill him. Thus, Christ rejected the glory, and preferred the road of pain.
He preferred to be persecuted by the Jews, than to be a king over them. He never wanted to be involved with the people in their wishes and desires. Indeed, what’s the benefit of a king to them, when they are far from God and taking only the manifestations of religion and leaving its soul, so God rebuked them, saying: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me” (Matthew 15:8)
Jesus wanted to purify the people and sanctify them, not to rule over them, he wanted to free their hearts from sin, not to free them from the Romans who possessed them as a result of their sins.
But the Jews were far from that spiritual way of thinking, they did not think at all about their souls and their salvation, which was the thing that concerned Christ the most.
All their thoughts were limited to the earthly kingdom alone. So they were disappointed in Christ, who talked with them about spirituality and refused the earthly Kingdom. Thus they settled their minds to kill Him. And started the conspiracy about Him, on the same day that they chose Him as a king!!! Thus they rejected Him.
It’s not strange that He was rejected for it was said about Him that“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11) “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1: 5) … He Came to light the world, and men loved darkness rather than light… They Rejected Christ, and asked for Barabbas … Their hearts were darkened, and they did not understand where their well-being was… As they sought to kill Christ, they punished themselves not Him… And Christ walked in the way of Calvary, on the way of the cross…
With that, Christ has established an important principle, which is that pain is superior to the worldly glory, or that pain is the way to the real glory .. No glory without pain … Or, that the glory of man lies in pain.
That’s why Christians have always loved the passion of the Christ, and celebrated His pain … In every age they have a week called “Holy Week” or “Week of pain” … Not ashamed but proud of the sufferings of Christ. They believe that his pain for us is a sign of love, and a sign of giving, and a sign that He refused the transient glories of the world. However, that the name of glories is the wrong name..
The Prince of Poets, Ahmed Shawqi, was right when he said:
The genius enjoyed the pain … The most brilliant thing in life is pain
Everyone who walks in the way of God must suffer for Him, and should find pleasure in pain… And all virtue without pain is a cheap virtue free of giving…
Therefore, every human being on the last day, will give an account of his work, and will be rewarded by the amount of his pain for the Lord. As the Book says: “each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8)… If that is so, we are entitled to ask:
What is the amount of your suffering for the Lord? What is the amount of your giving and your pain?
Apply this rule on all your deeds; If you found an obstacle in the way of virtue, give all your efforts to cross it. If you found pain in the path of goodness, endure it with joy and satisfaction. If you found a good deed that needs effort and fatigue, do not care about tiredness, and be with a strong heart…
Know that God, whom you love, can never forget the tiredness of love. Remember the stories of the holy martyrs who have suffered for the Lord, and were happy in their pain, and the people who were astonished by the strength of their endurance. No matter how much is your pain, it cannot be compared to their pain and sufferings. As well as the prophets and heroes of faith (Hebrews 11), all of them were exhausted because of their High goals, and God rewarded them for their pains, which were their way to glory.
Rest does not create heroes, neither does pleasure create saints.
And how correct were the wise words of the poet who said:
And if the souls are high, then the bodies are weary to reach this height
We in this life, must exert all our energies, and sacrifice all our comfort, for God and His kingdom, and for the ideals that we believe in, and putting before us the words of Scripture:“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
And the pains that we endure for God, we must bear with contentment and without grumbling because being discontent makes us lose the reward, which is the evidence that the inside of the heart is not responsive to external pain, and not submitting itself as a pleasing sacrifice to God. Our saintly fathers used to rejoice in pain. The disciples of Christ when they were whipped by the Jews, the book says about them: “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5: 41). History shows us that, in the first century, the prisons were full of praises and hymns and spiritual songs of the Christian people who were awaiting for their death in any moment.
The pain of the present age, cannot be measured with the glory which awaits the believer in eternity. Whoever contemplates in heaven and its glory, and in eternal bliss, and in the angels and saints, and what God has prepared for His saints in the other world, trivializes for him all the tiredness he endures for God’s sake. Trivializes for him all the waking and staying up in the night to pray, and the tiredness he bears when fasting and worshiping, and the effort he exerts to get away from a certain sin, or in order to get rid of a wrong habit.
Know that the holy pain is not a sign of weakness; it is an evidence of the strength of the heart from inside. It was never said that the martyrs were weak in their deaths and their sufferings, but they were strong in heart and in faith…