There is a lifetime in a Holy Week: triumphal entry, betrayal, the Last Supper and its res mirabilis, agony, slumber, arrest, denial, scourging, judgment, sentence, the way, crucifixion, death, pieta, burial, confusion, despair, and on the eighth day after the week began we return to triumph.
The Palm Sunday liturgy takes us from the cries of hosanna to the cries for crucifixion. It would be unbelievable fiction if it were not gripping reality.
One cannot take it all in and so it is possible to do what I used to do in advanced math class in high school when our teacher would be explaining the why of the working of certain problems. My mind would shut down as it failed to grasp the input. After the teacher was finished, I would turn to my friend who sat behind me and ask for the abridged version of the explanation. He was a great summarizer. [By the way, he is now Friar Paul Mary and will be ordained a deacon in three weeks.]
I have to have an abridged version of the Passion in order to think of anything substantial at all. Without Friar Paul to turn to, this is what I have latched onto that gives my mind, and really my soul, something it can partially grasp.
There is a paradox in Pilate’s Praetorium. Jesus had said that the truth would set us free, and He also identified Himself as the Truth. The giver of freedom and Freedom itself is now held in bondage. It is a bondage of His own choosing – He has bound Himself to the Father’s will and He has bound Himself to the whole of humanity.
Still it is left to one pragmatic and cowardly judge to pronounce sentence. What is more pragmatic and cowardly than trying to shift responsibility to the multitude. And so Pilate asks the crowd who it will be that he should release.
Now the multitude stands in judgment. And as the Palm Sunday liturgy is designed, we become part of that multitude. And we choose bondage and crucifixion for Christ.
I’ve never liked that we have to say, “Crucify Him!” But today it struck me what that might mean in the here and now.
It might mean that I do not want Christ released fully into my life. There are parts of it that I want to maintain a control over. There may be people that I do not want to love as Christ loves; there are pleasures that I want to safeguard from the emptying necessary to love without reserve; there are elements of self-pride that seem too hard to renounce in humble praise – to see all as a gift and not of my own doing.
There is Truth that I am afraid of; there is Freedom from which I cower. Keep Jesus, the Truth, in bondage and let me remain in my false world.
Pilate does not follow the counsel of his own conclusion after questioning Christ; he does not follow the counsel of his wife’s conclusion after her disturbing dream. He bends to the public cry. And then excuses himself of that man’s blood with a symbolic washing of his hands.
We can do something similar. We have fasted, we have prayed, we have given alms and we can use these as water to wash our hands in as we leave Christ in bondage and watch Him led to take up His cross.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.