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Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
What is your relationship with the Word of God? And then the next question: What is your relationship with the Word-made-Flesh? First, the Word. Are you one who reads the Bible out of curiosity, interest? To be more knowledgeable of the body of Sacred Scripture, maybe to be able to cite a few texts? Maybe you can take away a few insights that will help inform your life, making every day more understandable. To maintain such an impersonal interaction with God’s living Word is to only take as much as we want out of it, not to receive fully the Spirit that breathes behind the Word with the power to transform us.
Likewise, with Jesus. Do we allow ourselves to come close enough to him to just see what is going on, what he might be saying or doing (many simply wanted to see him perform signs), file all this away for future use if it should become necessary? Do we really identify ourselves in him? Or only with him? Do we enter into his experience as members in him?
Our relationship to the Passion narratives which we have listened to this week set a tone to our approach to the Mysteries of Christ, these saving Mysteries of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection as they unfolded on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Where do you fall in the story?
We asked that everyone not read the lines of the crowd for a very specific purpose. So you would not be focusing only on “your” lines and when they were coming next, these lines of condemnation and hate. Focusing only on these lines, as onlookers, might cause us to miss the message of the love of Jesus which lies behind all the other lines. And “whose” lines are they anyway?
Especially today, it seems, the last thing we need is another angry crowd. Look around us, how many angry crowds, everywhere, shouting and demanding. We are called to be more.
Reading this Gospel like a script was an experiment in the 70s that, oddly, contradicted the message of Vatican II. At a time when unity was of utmost importance, we segregated our congregations by this new mode of addressing these passion narratives as if we were characters in a play. You became the mob, the shouting mob. The priest alone became Jesus. ...Why?
Today it seems like this divide is becoming wider, a clericalism (an emphasis on the centrality of the priest as Christ) is more common today (as before) that can seek to deny the common priesthood of all baptized lay people to assume the role of Jesus in the world. …All of us are called not only to speak the lines, but live the role of Jesus…to be him.
Lay people—same as clergy—are called to be more than bystanders. Your spiritual life is more than being the angry mob. Somebody said to me last year, “Well, I like to shout ‘Crucify him!’ because then this Gospel reminds me how my sins crucified Jesus.”
I have thought about this all year. Our sins did not crucify Jesus, as if we could have such power over him. We are dead in our sins, there is nothing we can do. We are powerless, we are nailed down, unable to move, even unable to speak. So utterly helpless. It is Jesus who lovingly, intentionally climbs up onto that Cross (as the Church Fathers said) to give us life again—and life eternal! He followed the will of his Father and chose to do this. It is a story about love, not hate. Just one tear of the Son of God in the Garden of Gethsemane would have been enough suffering to ratify the new, eternal covenant given to us on Holy Thursday—but Jesus wanted to show us how radically deep is this love of God for you, so he emptied himself, entirely.
I gave you spiritual homework last week: while rereading those passion narratives, to read out loud all the parts of Jesus. Now I have Easter homework for you. We have now experienced the sacred Mysteries first hand—now consider his resurrection. If we have truly lived in him through these Mysteries, risen life will follow just as truly.
That vocabulary of Jesus now flows equally from your own heart, a vocabulary of kindness and mercy, forgiveness and peace, self-emptying love. Be transformed in this new life you have already received! We are called to be so much more than even the faithful friend who stands at the foot of the cross and stays until the end. In Christ, there is no death, no end, no division.
We are called beyond the end, to be Christ himself.
God bless you.