Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Human beings possess this amazing ability to feel and understand the suffering that others know without actually experiencing it firsthand. We can imagine what they experience, and in some limited fashion suffer their hurts, their losses, their sadness, their betrayal. This is empathy. It enables us to identify with injustice even when we have not known injustice. It enables us to embrace, and comfort our neighbor wounded or devastated by institutional bigotry, tolerated unfairness, or outright violence. This new perspective then enables us to act on behalf of those who suffer hurt, loss, sadness, and betrayal, whose misery is worsened by their sense of helplessness and irrelevance.

For many years humanity has experienced alienation from God, which came as a very real consequence of our rejection of God. From the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden, and the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, through many generations of the worship of false gods, dishonesty, lying, stealing, cheating, adultery, cursing, jealousy, vengeance and violence against one another and against creation, lust and gluttony that have fueled our prejudice and our rage, women and men, young and old, to this day have known most intimately a self-inflicted alienation from God.

There may have been a rare few who attempted with heroic effort to live upright and holy lives. They were often the exception, and were soon overwhelmed by the selfishness and sin that surrounded them on all sides, their memory fading with time. It seemed like a losing battle, from which we were utterly powerless to free ourselves. So God saw fit to intervene, to step into our chaos, to lift us up, to wash us, and restore us to innocence.

Jesus stands before us this week seemingly a victim of the narrow-mindedness and distrust of his opponents, and the betrayal and alienation of all humanity. We are horrified when we think of his betrayal by his friends and his rejection by his own people. We are disgusted by his torture and murder with the approval of the civil and religious leaders of his day.

But we should also recall that God chose voluntarily to embrace the weakness of our human nature, to know firsthand the darkness of our selfishness and sin, and to suffer our hurts, our losses, our sadness, and our betrayal. God wanted to accomplish something truly awesome and wonderful, to bring about something we could never achieve on our own.

Jesus is no victim. He took our guilt and shame upon himself, and broke the seemingly unbreakable cycle of our alienation. He paid the price for our crimes, and raised us up in righteousness. Jesus did so much more than walk in our shoes. He embraced, endured, and healed our hurts, our losses, our sadness, our betrayal. He took upon himself the punishment we deserved for our sins, so he could give us the right to call upon God as his children. He died so that we would know the fullness of life. He gave up his life for ours once and for all, not because he was a helpless victim, but because of the immensity of his love for us.

This Holy Week, Jesus calls us to walk in his shoes, to know the hurts, the losses, the sadness, and the betrayal he embraced. They are the same hurts, losses, sadness, and betrayal of our sisters and brothers, victims of abuse, addiction, mental illness, gun violence, racism, abortion, and prejudice. And as Jesus is, we are victims no more.

Rolo B Castillo © 2018