My God My God why have you abandoned me?
Today marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is the week that we enter into the mystery of our faith. And we begin by listening to the drama of the passion of Jesus Christ. And we are reminded that it is a very human drama. It is a drama of scapegoating the innocent. It is a drama of the washing of the hands by the leader who found the mobs call for blood too much, too irresistible. It is a drama that includes the build-up of people being carried along and joining in with the harassment and victimisation of the innocent one. It is a drama that culminates in the crowd yelling at the top of their voices – crucify him! And the innocent victim cries out – My God My God why have you abandoned me? It’s only when he is dead and the crowd is dispersed and silence reigns that the realisation emerges. The earth quakes and a single centurion speaks, “truly this was a Son of God”. What have we done! Who have we killed? What just happened? Palm Sunday reveals to us more about humanity than any other day can do. The drama of the passion shows us just how far human beings can go and how that human drama is confronted with the God of the innocent, the vulnerable and the fragile. While human beings in their power and anger kill one another God is revealed as the one who is on the side of the innocent, the frail, the beaten, the bleeding. The one who feels ‘abandoned’. And Palm Sunday is a call to join that God and stand with and for the innocent, the frail, the beaten and the bleeding. It is a day to check ourselves when we feel the movement of the mob within us, when we are motivated by anger, revenge, the need for blood. Crucify him; get rid of him or her. It is the day when we are called to solidarity with the God of life.
This year we celebrate Palms Sunday in the midst of a global pandemic which is sweeping across the world without discrimination. It makes us all feel vulnerable, fragile, insecure, frightened. We too can feel like crying out ‘My God, My God why have you abandoned me?” Yet, Palm Sunday and reflection on the passion of Christ would call us to other places. Today we stand in solidarity with all those who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, those who have died; those who have are making sacrifices in the medical profession; those who have lost jobs, income, security. It is a time to stand together and work together not to seek to blame, to yell, to crucify.
It’s time to tune into those who are vulnerable and live in the shadow of death year by year – the 200,000 children under 5 who die from Malaria; the hundreds of thousands of young women who die from AIDS year by year; the growing health and death related illnesses associated with the displacement of peoples; the elderly who die lonely and afraid. These examples can awaken us to our shared humanity and when tuned in to them can lead human beings to do incredible things, to help one another, to support one another, to overcome the odds, to turn fear and death into peace and resurrection. That is the Christian claim and hope.
Traditionally many people join in peace Marches on Palm Sunday in order to combat violence and raise awareness of those who suffer and are forgotten in our world. This year that march has moved online – you can find it and join in this years Palm Sunday peace rally.
So as we enter this holy week let us pray for one another and the human family. As we practice physical distancing to slow the COVID-19 pandemic, let us also practice social connection and stand in solidarity with the human family for whom Christ, the innocent victim, came to bring life.