Friday, March 22, 2013

Sunday of the Passion Year C

No Other Way

Readings: Luke 19:29-40; Psalm 22:1-11; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:39-23:50

Thomas Berry, a Passionist priest, wrote, “The most appropriate image of Christ is Mother Earth crucified.” It is reflected in the events of Palm and Passion Sunday. Entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, Jesus is hailed by the crowds as a king. “If they were silenced,” Jesus says, “then the very stones in the street would start to shout.” And in the reading of the Passion at the time of Jesus’ death darkness covers the earth as the whole of creation is touched by the selfless act of the Son of God. What was done to Jesus was done to the whole of creation.

That is the journey into which we enter today. We are swept along the city streets as part of the crowd. With the disciples and friends of Jesus we cheer him on shouting “Hosanna! Save us!”

We sit at the table with Jesus and the disciples, passing the cup of wine and breaking bread. We hear Jesus’ words interpreting the bread and wine in relation to his imminent death.

We find ourselves in the garden of Gethsemane agonizing with Jesus. He spends the night in an agony of doubt praying his anguished prayer. We fight sleep, but like the disciples give in, exhausted by the events of the day.

We feel a deep sense of grief as Jesus is betrayed by one of his closest friends. We watch with Peter and the disciples from a safe distance as he is taken away to appear before Pilate. We feel a sense of shock and disbelief, as he is condemned to death. Yet we find ourselves joining in with the crowd shouting our taunts of “Crucify!”

We feel pain and confusion as we stand with the disciples at the foot of the cross. All hope is gone as he is executed along with two murderers. We hear him draw his last breath. We follow to the tomb; we see his body laid out for burial. We scatter in confusion.

A friend recently asked why we tell the story year after year. My immediate reaction was, “Why wouldn’t we?” It is, after all, central to our faith. But then I pondered a little over the question. Is it our fascination with violence? Is it because bloodshed is so commonplace in our lives? Are we so used to seeing it on television and in the newspaper that we need the grisly reminder? Are we hungry for tragedy? Do we want to assuage our sense of guilt with the reminder that there is nothing we could have done differently? Do we want to lay blame on others? Or do we believe that our participation in the passion of Christ is a necessary sacrifice?

Hopefully we do not come together as church out of a sense of duty or shame; nor are we here to make atonement for our sinfulness. We are here to be reminded of what God has done for us. We are here to celebrate the great gift of salvation that God has offered us in the death of Christ.

We are here to confess not our sins and our brokenness, but our hope, our hope in the resurrection. It was not for our wickedness that Christ died, but for the weakness of our human nature.

We are called to be here at the foot of the cross. We are called to be here at the foot of the cross because God will not let death have the final say. God will not let death separate us from the great love of a great God.

From our place at the foot of the cross we know fear, sorrow, grief, pain, and confusion; but we know also joy. We know God’s glory and love. There is hope from that vantage point as look out on God’s new creation.

We can view the cross as the greatest of failures; or we can recognize and be convinced of God’s loving compassion for humanity. In Christ’s death God suffered and died. That is the measure of God’s love. Can we understand that great love? Can we take it and transform it into a thing of loveliness and glory that inspires us, and others to take up the cross and follow in Christ’s footsteps? Do we possess the mind and attitude of Christ? For in dying Jesus showed us God’s glory and passionate love. There was no other way. There is no other way but the way of the cross.

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