Sunday, March 25, 2018

Marching to Palm Sunday

I am surprised--but why should I be?--at how many of my Facebook friends went to marches yesterday in cities large and small.  Well done!

We have a college friend visiting this week-end.  We thought about going to the march in our area, but as I wrote about yesterday, the challenges involved made us change our minds.  I baked bread, which gets me further ahead for the coming weeks in terms of nourishing things to eat at work.  We needed to run some errands in Ft. Lauderdale, so I suggested we do that sooner rather than later.  We finished the day by my spouse and our friend playing music:

Throughout the day, I had the marches on the brain.  But I also found my thoughts returning to the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, which was yesterday.  And it's Palm Sunday week-end, which added a different patina to my thoughts than we might expect.

I've been thinking about social progress--what it takes to make progress, and how we lose traction.  Sadly, violence often spurs us to make demands we wouldn't have made otherwise.  And violence can also show us how serious the stakes are and how long the odds--witness Oscar Romero and Jesus Christ.

Romero knew that he was in danger from various political forces in the country, but he refused to cower in fear and back down. Likewise, Jesus must have known what wrath he was bringing down upon himself, but he did not back down. Until the end of his life, he called upon us to reform our earthly systems, systems that enrich a few on the backs of the many. Romero and Christ both show us that the forces of empire do not take kindly to being criticized.

Jesus warns us that to follow him will mean taking up a cross, and it may be the literal cross of death. The story of Passion Sunday reminds us that we are not here to seek the world's approval: the world may love us one day and crucify us next week. Passion Sunday offers us some serious reminders. If we put our faith in the world, we're doomed. If we get our glory from the acclaim of the secular world, we'll find ourselves rejected sooner, rather than later.

It's important for us to remember the basic lesson of the Scriptures: God is not fickle; it's humans and the societies that humans create that are fickle. You can be acclaimed in one season and denounced in the next.

The Passion story and the story of Oscar Romero remind us that dreadful things may happen to us. God took on human form, and even God couldn't avoid horrific pain and suffering. But the Passion story also reminds us that we are not alone. God is there in the midst of our human dramas. If we believe in free will and free choices, then God may not be able to protect us from the consequences of our decisions. But God will be there to be our comfort and our strength.

We live in a time where we might feel overwhelmed by how much evil we see, and how determined those forces of evil seem to be.  A more important lesson comes with Easter. God can take horrific suffering and death and transform it into resurrection. We know what happened to Jesus and those early Christians after the death of Jesus. Likewise, in death, Oscar Romero became a larger force for justice than in life. His death, and the martyrdom of other Church leaders and lay workers (not to mention the deaths of 75,000 civilians) galvanized worldwide public opinion against the forces of death in El Salvador. God is there with us in our suffering and with God's help, suffering can be transformed into a more loving world.

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