Some of my most vivid memories from boyhood revolve around Holy Week. I can recall attending the Sacred Triduum with my family, my brothers serving as the Altar Boys. When I was finally old enough, I too would be on the altar for those liturgies. One thing that particularly stands out for me is the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday. As you may recall, many parishes involve the congregation in the Passion by having them assume lines from the mobs. What I vividly recall is the great gusto with which my Mother took her role as a member of the crowd. It is a bit jarring to hear your mother calling for the crucifixion of the Lord. "Crucify him!" "We want Barabbas!"
This memory, however, remains with me as something quite positive. It reminds me of something important. The people who denied Jesus, betrayed Jesus, humiliated Jesus, scourged Jesus, unjustly condemned Jesus, chose Barabbas over Jesus, mocked Jesus, who crucified Jesus, and those who remained faithful to Jesus . . . all of them . . . were people just like us. They were people like my Mother, people like my Father, people like my brothers, people like my friends, people like me. Christ was in front of them and they made a decision as to how they would relate to him.
During the reading of the Passion at Palm Sunday Mass this year, I was particularly struck by the disciples who fell asleep on Jesus. This must have been a big suffering for Jesus. Here he is about to offer the most tremendous act of love and endure incomprehensible suffering and the friends he has chosen to be with him in this moment fall asleep on him. It must have increased in Jesus a sense of isolation and abandonment. Those disciples . . . just like us. We can be people who fall asleep in front of the love of God. Asleep in ingratitude, asleep in distraction, asleep in the face of injustice, suffering, and pain. In front of what is most real, true, good, and beautiful, we can just yawn and fall asleep in the mundane.
All of us relate to Christ in one way or another. This is the great mystery. Our whole life is judged upon our relationship to Him. Ignoring him, denying him, resisting him, betraying him, following him, loving him; these are all possibilities. In Christ, God's love has become flesh. Our position before Christ is our position before God's love. God's love is a fact. It is a fact who has become flesh and who has hung upon a Cross. All of us are in a relationship to this Fact in one way or another. We can betray this love, deny this love, ignore this love, yawn in front of this love, be moved to repentance by this love, follow this love, love this love, open ourselves to this love, be transformed by this love. But, the one thing we cannot do is not be loved by this love. The people in the Gospels were people like us. They were loved by God and, in one way or another, they responded to this love. This Love--this Crucified Love--stands at the center of human history and awaits our reply.