Our Eastern Gate
by Rev. Stanley J. Krempa
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
Eight major gates give entry into the holy and ancient city of Jerusalem. The largest is the Eastern Gate, sometimes called the "Beautiful Gate" or the "Golden Gate." It is unique among the historic gates because it is the only one that is completely sealed up, preventing entry.
Jewish tradition had said that the Messiah would come to Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate to take possession of the sacred city and bring victory and judgment. To prevent this, Suleiman the Magnificent sealed the gate in the 16th century and it has remained sealed ever since for half a millennium.
Actually, the gate through which Jesus passed on Palm Sunday was the predecessor of the present gate. But, on that first Palm Sunday, the Messiah did come to His city to bring judgment and victory. The Eastern Gate looms large in Jewish prophecy and tradition. What about our Eastern Gate, what Anglican priest-poet Malcolm Guite calls "the holy city of my heart?" Is the gate of our heart open to the Savior? Is our life allowing entry to Christ or is our soul barricaded against the serious demands of the Lord? Ours are not the two ton stones of Suleiman the Magnificent. Our stones that prevent the entry of Jesus into our life are wrong relationships, anger, greed, the excesses of ambition or the silent cancer of cynicism. We all know how easy it is to get captured by spiritual enthusiasm on Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday or Easter Sunday. That spiritual veneer quickly fades and we experience what the poet Malcolm Guite calls the "dreadful emptiness of a perverted temple" that is, a temple from which God is gone. The temple of our soul needs repeated spiritual cleansing to reopen the way for the Lord.
The Savior comes to us not astride a donkey, amid waving palms and sonorous cries of "Hosanna." The Lord comes to us in the dark corners of our life, in the disappointments of our friendships, in the regular reminders of our mortality, in the yearnings we have for order, peace and a spiritually coherent life.
Each Lent and each Easter season, the Lord invites us not to experience surface emotions but to join Him on a journey. It is a journey that takes courage and patience. It requires courage because a change in the pattern and priorities of our life is never easy. The siren call of the old ways is always there pulling us back to old ways and familiar vices. It takes patience because spiritual transformation doesn't happen overnight. But it can begin if we start to remove those gigantic stones that block the gateway to our heart, our mind and our soul. These stones are not easily removed, but when they are, new light will enter our life.
Today's Passion account shows us lives where the stones are not removed in Judas, the chief priests and scribes, the false witnesses. We also see lives where the stones have been or will be removed in Peter, Simon of Cyrene and the woman with the alabaster jar. This Sunday, as we recall Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, let us look at whether we are ready to allow the Lord to enter our life through our "Eastern Gate." Will we make our life His home? Are we ready to remove some of the stones of our own making that block His way?
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