Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Because the readings are long, this reflection is brief.  Plenty more I had in mind, but less, I hope, is more.

I know we had some long readings today, so I will make this quick, but first, an image to contemplate: we have all seen film or Power Point presentation projected onto a screen, right?  Speaking of the suffering and death of Jesus, the theologian Mark McIntosh gives the odd image of projecting a film, not onto a screen, but onto a garbage heap; the film is completely distorted, barely possible to make out.  He suggests that the suffering and death of Jesus, far from being the will of God, is the distorted outcome of the “film” of God’s self-giving life appearing in the wreckage of human history.  That’s why we read the Passion on Palm Sunday, a week ahead of time: to remind ourselves that the roots of Jesus’ suffering and death lie in his life and ministry, his confrontation with the distorted power structures of our world.
There were two processions going into Jerusalem that day: on one hand, Roman forces were massing in Jerusalem, fortifying their troop strength in town in preparation for the Passover, because there was typically trouble as people remembered and demonstrated for a freedom they did not enjoy.  On the other hand, Jesus and his little group enter from the other direction, not with an opposing army, but lampooning this show of overwhelming force, playing on the words of the prophet Zechariah: “See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.  He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; The warrior's bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.” (Zech 9:9-10)  A very different kind of king from Caesar, but a king nonetheless.
This year Palm Sunday falls between two infamous days from our own time: this past Wednesday, March 24, marked the 30th anniversary of the anniversary of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed for his outspoken commitment to economic and social justice for the poor of El Salvador.  Next week, Easter Sunday, is April 4th, which of course is the anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the radicality of whose message we as a nation and as Christians have not yet begun to take seriously.  Shortly before his death, Romero said, “If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people.”  If you’ve been to El Salvador, you know that is exactly what has happened, and that’s what we are here today to do: to remember, to strengthen one another for our common task.  True discipleship, following Jesus, means following him to the place of confrontation with every system of domination, even to death, believing that resurrection, new and transformed life, awaits.


Anonymous said...

Short, sweet (and yet with a tang to make us pause and think) and to the point.

Still trying to digest Hagia Sophia.


Anonymous said...

Another eloquent sermon, Patrick. I have been to a over 4 dozen Palm Sunday masses in my lifetime, and have never heard the significance of its events explained as you have explained them. Thanks for sharing this with us. Happy Easter!