What if?

March 21, 2016

Cross-posted from the Franciscan Action Network

This week we begin our celebration of Holy week. Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week. The celebration of Palm Sunday originated in the Jerusalem Church, around the late fourth century. It commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. We celebrate it as a triumphant entry where people were cheering and spread palm branches on the street. It is hard to imagine that on Sunday people were cheering and celebrating Jesus and a short five days later they were screaming for him to be crucified. A few years ago I read a book by Marcus Borg called The Last Week What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem. The Last Week starts with Jesus entrance into Jerusalem on Sunday. It depicts a different Jesus. A person willing to sacrifice his life in protest of power without justice. He was willing to stand up to the powerful, whether religious or political leaders, or anyone who would not condemn the rich for their lack concern for the poor. This is a vastly different version of the passion story than the one most of us were raised on. A story of a cruel and petty God who would demand a human sacrifice before forgiving humanity for a slight that happened thousands upon thousands of years ago.Last week book cover

In our first reading Isaiah says: “The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” We are often told that we should not talk politics or religion at social events. We are afraid to offend someone by challenging their views. Jesus did not hesitate to speak up for the poor and the marginalized. He was not afraid to confront the religious and political leaders. He often called them hypocrites for caring more about their large homes and their money and power than for the hungry. Jesus regularly disobeyed the laws. He often committed acts of civil disobedience. For challenging those in power, speaking out for the poor and hungry he was crucified. The reading goes on to say: “Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”

Are we listening, do we hear? Or are we rebelling and saying, “But God, it is not polite to challenge someone even if they are preaching racism and hatred.” Next week, in churches all over, we will reenact the story of the last week of Christ. We will start on Sunday with the waving of palms and on Holy Thursday we will have the washing of the feet. Easter Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection. This is good to do. It is good to relive the passion. While we are doing this, let’s think about all the political rhetoric that we are hearing. The speeches of hatred and fear. Let us take a few minutes to close our eyes and reflect on ‘what if?’

What if Jesus were walking with us today? A young, brown skinned, homeless man. An illegitimate child born to a teenage single mom from an Arabic country. A man preaching about a radical revolution. Telling us that our religious and political systems need to come crumbling down so a new kingdom can be built. A kingdom of love and peace. A kingdom where no child goes to bed hungry. Where no one is homeless and no one lives in a mansion. A kingdom where strangers are welcome, not where we build walls to keep them out. A kingdom where the Earth and all of her creatures are sacred. Now ask yourself a simple question: ‘Would the story end any different than it did two thousand years ago?’ Or would the story end exactly the same with some people screaming “crucify him, crucify him” and others, through their deafening silence, participating in the torture and death of the Christ.

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director