Is there anything that is NOT in the passion narrative that should be?
It is the haunting loneliness that grips me. Nobody stepped forward to defend Jesus or to speak on his behalf. Where were the recipients of his healings? His exorcisms? His mercy and love? In the heart of the Passion story, there is a black and frightening hole no one wants to walk into. What is NOT in the passion narrative is someone, anyone to stand by Jesus and to speak for him. Judas has betrayed him. The crowd that cried Hosanna now wants his blood. The disciples who swore they would never abandon him were the first to flee. Matthew records his mother and some women are there at a distance. But they are mute witnesses to the horror of his death. As for the rest – all who listened to his words and were touched by the witness of his life, from them we hear only an absolute, deafening silence.
Passion Sunday invites us to change that narrative in our own day and time. Because in many ways, our Lord still walks his lonely road to Calvary with no one speaking up for him. Our Lord still walks alone in the life of every brother and sister suffering on the fringes of our awareness.
Some of those without a voice to speak for them are easy to identify. The innocent child in the womb. The person shuttered in their own home paralyzed by mental illness. The Syrian refugee fleeing the nerve gas attacks of their own government.
Then there are more subtle examples of people who do not have anyone to stand up for them. I was at my old parish for their fish fry on Friday and realized that one of the biggest ‘changes’ between these two assignments – I have moved literally from the worst performing school district in the STATE to the best – from Normandy at the bottom – to Lindbergh- at the top. And I suspect that if our school district’s performance would suddenly and inexplicably be flipped in terms of results – the hue and outcry would be enormous. Yet who speaks up for the kids and families in the Normandy public school district? Where is the outrage over generations of lost educational opportunity?
Our own city of St. Louis became an abortion sanctuary with the passage of bill #203 from the Board of Aldermen. And I wonder because of that bill, who will speak up for the religious liberty of the property owner who refuses to rent their space to Planned Parenthood or its ilk for Abortion Services and now faces imprisonment and or fines because of their stance protecting life? Or who will call our own senators and ask them to bring to the floor a law on the state level (SB 41) which would correct that horrible bill?
And so it goes. The Homeless veteran on the street. The girls kidnapped by Boko Harem a half a world away and still not returned to their homes. The 3.1 million children who die every year because of hunger related issues.
Jesus – who gave sight to the blind, mobility to the lame, hope to the prisoners, and mercy to the sinners, – walked his final journey to Calvary in a deafening silence. No one stood up for him. Yet, from the cross, Jesus embraced all those pushed aside into the weary margins of betrayal and loneliness and isolation. And He asks us to find them, house them, feed them, hold them, love them.
May what was NOT in the passion accounts – someone to stand up for Jesus in his sufferings – be exactly what WE find ourselves doing this Holy Week, and all through our holy lives…