Lent VI: Palm Sunday in the Lord’s Passion
2016 – Cycle C
Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14 – 27:66
[Given prior to the proclamation of the Passion]
In the immediacy of today’s social media we are often unexpectedly forced to bear witness. As on 19 December 2016 in Ankara, Turkey we watched the Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov Gennadiyeviç shot to death before us.
You may have just happened to turn on your television and were drawn to the horrifying images of the 9/11 attacks or the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. We are often forced to witness.
The poor women of Canterbury in T. S. Elliot’s verse play, Murder in the Cathedral, are compelled toward the cathedral to witness.
“Here let us stand, close by the cathedral.
Are we drawn by danger?
Some presage of an act
Which our eyes are compelled to witness, has forced out feet…
We are forced to bear witness.”
Unable to stop the inevitable murderous clouds gathering around Archbishop Thomas Becket, the senses of the women of Canterbury are heightened. They smell the death-bringers. They are drawn to watch.
Have you ever watched the 1985 film, Shoah? This film about the Holocaust consists of nine hours of close-up interviews of bystanders, survivors and perpetrators – remembering. The movie forces you to watch people remember. We witness as people are pushed to the limits to remember more and more detail of their participation in the Holocaust. The eyes relating the stark truth in contrast to the tranquility of their narratives belies the tragedy of their stories.
As much as we want to avert our eyes to tragedy and violence, we are often forced to bear witness. We want to avert our eyes because so much violence and tragedy have no value.
As Christians we too are called to witness, but to witness to the presence of the living God in our world, to witness to the enduring spirit of the human being that together redeem human suffering for the sake of others. And so we gaze upon tragedy and violence…but unlike the women of Canterbury are feet today are not forced to the cathedral; today we choose to gather, stand and bear witness. Unlike the unexpected intrusions of the media forcing us to be spectators of today’s horrors, we have gathered to be caught up into the anguish, suffering, and death of Jesus of Nazareth. And by witnessing, by being fully present to this redeeming act, Jesus’ anguish and suffering become mingled with our sufferings and anguishes and transforms them. Jesus’ death and burial pierce the darkness of our lives and our daily deaths illuminating them with healing and meaning. Thus in faith and trust we become one with the mystery of suffering, Jesus’, ours and that of our brothers and sisters and there discover hope!
Come. Bear witness to life!
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew…