Today we stand at the threshold of the holiest week in the Church, Palm Sunday. Today we celebrate our Lord’s triumphal arrival in the city of Jerusalem. We stand by the roadside waving our palms; shouting, ‘Hosanna’! We celebrate our Lord Jesus’ arrival; our deliverer, come to release us from the bonds of oppression; to overthrow the harsh rule of our conquerors, to cast off our chains of slavery. We cheer his coming because we desire to be free!
Today we read the gospel of Mark, the Passion of our Lord. At the beginning of Holy Week, it is our glimpse into the future of what is coming, of what will be: of what must be. It is quite fitting that we each take our part in the proclamation of the Word of God. Our participation in the reading is more than taking a part in a play, like an actor on the stage. We each live our part in our Lord’s Passion. We are the Narrator. We are the Voice: We are Peter, we are Judas, and we are Pilate. And especially, we are the Crowd.
We know the story of our Lord’s Passion and are called to retell it to all we meet, so they too may know Jesus’ sacrifice and glory. We recall His triumphant arrival to cheers and glad tidings. His moving through agony and suffering. His ending in humiliation and an undignified death on a cross. We cannot be called Christian if we are not familiar with this terrible narration.
We echo the voice of Peter, professing our love for Christ, only to deny Him through sin and disobedience. Our actions speak more forcefully than our words, when we fail to live fully our life in Christ.
As Judas, we know our Lord’s voice and hear Him teach the Truth of God’s love and law. We hear the Word calling us to place God first in our hearts and of loving others, as we are loved, but we turn deaf to the Truth when we place our wants, our needs and our desires before our love of God, the common good of all in our love for all our brothers and sisters.
We are Pilate, when we deny the Truth of Christ out of fear of the opinions of others. When we fail to speak out against oppression, against hatred, against injustice: we side with the oppressors, with those who hate and those who profit from injustice. We are Pilate, when we fail to stand up for the poor, the stranger and the marginalized who suffer the indignities of inequality and discrimination – those unrecognized and persecuted children of God. In our fear of going against the prevailing and popular views of our peers – we, like Pilate, wash our hands of the Truth of Jesus Christ.
We are the Crowd – shouting and cheering our Lord, when we hope and believe that He will bring us our desire for freedom and liberation. We celebrate and adore Him for all the good things He brings us that correspond with our heart’s desires. But when we discover that there is a cost and a risk; a sacrifice that needs to be made, changes will be required of us – we turn against Him, against His message; rejecting His ministry.
Placing first, our comforts of the now, we raise our voices against the promise of the ever-after; counting the price of sacrifice too high. What seemed so good before is now looked upon as too costly, too difficult, too hazardous; too unpopular.
We reject it.
We deny it.
We vilify it.
We crucify it!
Our Christian identity is inextricably tied to Jesus’ Passion. We cannot have Jesus without the suffering. We cannot have Christ without the cross. It is by His death that we have Life. It is in His suffering that we gain our freedom. It is in His Body and Blood, brutalized and poured out, that we acquire grace. It is in Him crucified that we receive God’s promise of forgiveness and mercy, of everlasting peace and joy, and Eternal Life. ~ Amen.