Being "on the street"

A Reflection For Passion Sunday (April 9)
by Greg Swiderski

Mark 11:1-10
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mk 14:1--15:47

The full text of the readings can be found here.

A few months ago Peter Steinfels wrote in the Religion Journal of the New York Times about the film of CS Lewis' famous book: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He quoted a writer who thought that the creature which might more fully represent the Christ of scripture was either a donkey or a sheep; the movie presents a lion as the "Christ figure." A lion never appears in the gospel and is never used by the writers to characterize Jesus. A lion seems a fierce figure, dominant and frightening; this seems at odds with the Christ of the gospels.

In the Christain sacred stories Jesus rides upon an ass as he arrives in Jerusalem; he is echoing Zechariah 9:9. He comes as a person of peace; a bellicose leader would ride a horse.

On Passion Sunday, March 24, 1980 a leader of peace was murdered in El Salvador. Oscar Romero had been a fairly ordinary individual and even cleric. Being an incarnational person led him to be with his people and not distant from them.

On April 9, 1945 (this year, Passion Sunday) another Christian minister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung, naked because he had participated in a plot to kill Hitler. There seems much discussion to understand why this otherwise peaceful man joined such a plan.

Both these men observed what was happening to their people and to their nations. They knew that they had to take a stand. They engaged the prophetic witness of their orders and knew that killing must stop.

Another genuine Christian witness was recently tortured and murdered in Iraq. Tom Fox, like his fellow Christian Peacemakers, had joined caring and peaceful people to witness to non violence in the midst of sectarian strife and war. Fortunately his three fellow captives were released; Tom, for reasons we may never know, was killed. His mutilated body was found on the street.

Being "on the street", among the people is the work of genuine ministry. The letter to the Philippians reminds us that Jesus "did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited" (NRSV). People who think they have the deity on their side and are doing his or her will may easily fall into hubris, the polar opposite of the Jesus of scripture.

During these times of cheap religion and the abuse of the divine for crass political purpose, please recall the words of Oscar Romero, "If they ever take our radio, suspend our newspaper, silence us, put to death all of us priests, bishop included, and you are left alone -- a people without priests -- then each of you will have to be God's microphone. Each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is left alive!"

Have a blessed and passionate Wholy Week!