The Sunday of the Lord's Passion of the Palms
Lenten meditations on justice and peace
Paul today quotes a hymn that recalls the divinity and the humanity of Jesus. Three different words are used to emphasize Christ's humanity and thus his solidarity with the entire human race. He speaks of Christ's humility, of his emptying of his self, a voluntary oblation of love.
Such a contrast is this kenosis to the
demands of this era for self-aggrandizement. In the
modern world, Jesus would be advised to get a PR coach,
a FB page, and to learn how to properly promote himself.
But Jesus, who is God, chooses not to claim an earthly
throne by the force of power. There's no doubt
that the crowds of Jerusalem were on his side this day.
They were tired of the Romans, weary of oppression, they
longed for the rebirth of their nation, they would
certainly have taken up arms against the Romans if Jesus
had called them to do so. Instead of earthly
honors and political powers, Christ comes with servant
leadership, calling us to follow his example.
What? Servant leadership? What good is
that? Give us the head of the Roman procurator,
that's what we want! It's not a surprise that only
a few days after hailing Jesus as King, the street is
crying out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" The way of
the world is violence, the way of the Lord is justice
and peace. It's not easy to understand or accept, then
Why can't we have a nice violent
revolution and get rid of the Romans? Well,
actually, the Jews did get that, twice over the next 100
years, and the end result was the extirpation of
the Jewish community in Israel, the destruction of the
Temple, and the Diaspora.
One of the things we learn in catechism
class is you can't seek a good end by an immoral
means. It is always tempting, but it always fails.
Consider our own violent Revolution in 1776. That
ushered in 200+ years of state violence. There has not
been a single year of our history that the American
state has not been killing someone somewhere for
something. That's not something we like to confront, but
it is historical truth.
The Passion narrativesof Matthew, Mark,
and Luke, which we read in all of their excrutiating
reality at the liturgy of Palm Sunday, over the three
year lectionary cycle, are among the most epic prose of
the Christian scriptures.
We certainly haven't learned much in the intervening 2000 years. Life in the American Empire is as dirt cheap as it was in ancient Rome. The corpses of any number of dead civilians scattered about the world in our "places of military interest", not to forget the soldiers, tell the truth of this tale. These human persons are seen as cheap toys by the politicians and the corporations on all sides of these wars who profit from the slaughter. That's why we have so much slaughter, there's money to be made in death, and we truly get what we pay for.
As we read of the passion and death of
Jesus of Nazareth, we are reminded that the works of
justice and peace are hard works. They are human
actions that are rooted in the incarnation and voluntary
self-giving of Jesus. While Pilate models the
unjust exercise of authority, Christ models the just
servant leadership that is a model for all who
would do the works of justice and peace.
The pyramids of bodies erected in the sands of the
Middle East by our imperial greed for oil and power call
us to repent of our own willing participation in
the structures of sin that make this evil possible. Now
is a time to pray and work for peace. Our prayer gives
us a renewed resolve to heal the wounds of war with the
power of love and Christian example, one life at a time,
one moment at a time.
Today the final days of this Lenten
journey begin. Events start moving in close succession.
Christ calls us together in the time and place of Holy
Week to celebrate these deep mysteries, to receive our
God in the Holy Eucharist, to welcome new pilgrims
to join our journey. As the liturgies of Holy Week
unfold, it is as though each of us in attendance is
present at the original events that we recall. At the
end we will find joy and peace, but the road that goes
there passes first through the valley of the
shadow of death. We will fear no evil, because God is
Prayer intentions today:+ For all who walk through the rites of initiation this week, that they will be humble and open to the great mysteries that they celebrate, we pray to the Lord.
+ For all the people of God, that we will
find in the example of Christ's voluntary self-offering
of his entire life, strength and inspiration for the
journeys God is calling us to, we pray to the Lord.
+ For all the victims of conspiring
rulers of this world, protect them in their hour of grave
+ For all of us, that we will turn our backs on structures of sin, and do the works of justice, peace, and mercy.
Praxis today:+ Attend Mass and celebrate this Sunday of the Lord's Passion of the Palms
+ Bring your Rice Bowl offering to the
church and present it to help feed the hungry, or if you
are not Catholic, give to a relief fund that helps
the poor throughout the world.