As a child, I looked forward to Palm Sunday. After all, Palm Sunday Mass features a giveaway and the Gospel includes major audience participation. Sure the Mass was longer than most, and there was more standing/sitting/kneeling than most Sundays, but it was different, and like I said, you went home with something tangible.
As an adult and as a mom, my thoughts and feelings on the day have changed. Today it is the day in the liturgical calendar I most dread. I know that it is important to commemorate Christ’s Passion, to pass on the story, to keep it fresh for each coming generation, but I don’t like hearing it. I especially dislike the participation part.
I want to stand up and say, maybe even yell, “No! He is innocent. He has committed no crimes. He is a good and just man.” But I can’t. I have to suffer through the narrative. I have to relive the tense moments and see and feel the mob mentality. The only way I can protest would be to, like Pilate, refuse to participate, to wash my hands of the immense wrong done that day.
I think about Mary, His mother, and how this all must have been for her. Did she cry out or break down at the verdict? Did friends and family have to pull her away for her own protection? Did she plea to take his place? Her story is absent in the Bible. As a mother, I can’t imagine the horror. How could you bear to see this happen to your child? Yet how could you stay away and make them go through this ordeal alone?
I think of Mary Magdalen and the many women who followed Jesus, whom he welcomed into his circle and taught about the kingdom of God. How did they cope with this reality? Did they sit at home, knowing how things would turn out and believe that it would be too difficult to bear? Or were they there, hoping against hope that people would see this was wrong, that justice would prevail? Did they try to call out? Would their voices have been muffled by those around them or worse, dismissed, since they were just silly women? Did they feel powerless and insignificant living in a man’s world?
Though there is no mention of women at the trial of Jesus, we know that they were there when he was crucified. We know that they were at the tomb and despaired when they found his body missing. This, I believe is significant. Unlike some of the men, they were not afraid to be associated with Him at his death. As far as the guards were concerned, they were insignificant; their voices were ignored.
While I cannot change the past, times have changed. Over the centuries, the influence of women has grown. Women now have more power in society. Their voices are heard (though not always listened to). In most of the world, women are free to be educated. In many countries they are free to speak their minds, to run for public office, to influence or outright dictate policies. I am privileged to live in such a society and believe it would be wrong to squander these freedoms by remaining silent when innocent lives are threatened.
While I cannot change the past, I can work to effect the change Jesus advocated for in the world. I can speak up for Christian values and more importantly, live them. Over the past year and a half, I have been more outspoken in my belief that all humans should be treated fairly. My family asks why I worry about these things. I won’t really be affected, at least not directly. Many of the things I am speaking out against will not make my life any more difficult. But how can I be silent? I speak out because it’s the right thing to do. Honestly, I cannot understand why anyone would not.
The sort of mob mentality that caused Jesus’ death has not gone away. In fact, it seems we have seen a resurgence of it in recent years. I have heard many people speak of their concerns about being in crowds. They say they make sure they know where the exits are every time they are at a public gathering. They even try to avoid such events. Why? Because they worry about terroristic attacks or that rallies or protests may turn violent. They know that the mood of an event can very quickly change and a group of angry people is never a good thing.
I share their concerns. This will not make me avoid public events, but I am now hyper-aware of my surroundings. However, I am unwilling to sit back and watch as innocent people are unjustly punished, as our society and what we stand for is being diminished. My voice alone may not make a difference, but I believe that there is strength in numbers and that most of us want to do what is right. I believe in the basic goodness of humanity and will speak out against the voices stirring up the mob.
Unlike women of past centuries, my voice has power and I intend to use it to protect the “least of my brothers.” I have resources they don’t. I have been blessed with good fortune in my life. I have had challenges, but I also had the means to challenge and overcome them. How can I sit by and watch when unlike the women of the past, I have a voice with the potential to make a difference?