|Pope Francis during the Passion Sunday celebration|
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
When Jesus came to Golgatha,
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham
They simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him,
They only let Him die;
For men have grown more tender,
And they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street,
And left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, 'Forgive them,
For they know not what they do!
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through;
The crowd went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.
This poem entitled ‘Indifference’ was written by G.A. Studdert-Kennedy in the early 20th Century as an indictment on a culture that had lost its passion and a people whose heart had grown cold. The same could well be said of our society today. We are one in which things are ‘better’ now than ever before and we would never do something as bad as crucify someone. We’re more civilized than that.
Blessed John Paul II often spoke in his reflections and homilies that the opposite of love is not hatred but indifference. Listen again. The opposite of love is not hatred but indifference. Jesus Himself says in the Gospels that we should be either hot or cold, for if we are lukewarm we will be spat out, rejected. In the Passion narrative we just prayed together, we heard a whole variety of voices. We heard the voice of Love Himself in the person of Jesus. We hear echoes of His love in the quiet presence of the Blessed Mother, St. Mary Magdalene, the others with them at the Cross, Simon of Cyrene and the like. We also heard those voices of hatred. The blistery words of Judas, the voices of the high priests, Sanhedrin, and elders, as well as the bloodthirsty crowd crying out for the death of the Christ. “Crucify Him! Let his blood be upon us and our children!” They were not content with scourging, beatings, or mockeries. Death on the Cross, and that alone, would quench their thirst. But then there is also another group here in the midst of the story that we often over look – the silent majority.
We don’t understand the magnitude of the city of Jerusalem. Jewish Historians recount that during the week of Passover, well over 500,000 Passover lambs were slain in the Temple and as the Gospel hinted at, each lamb required to men to prepare it for the meal. That means that over 1 million men had travelled to Jerusalem, many of them bringing other family or friends along with them, and that number being in addition to the community already dwelling there. This means that like 2 million or more people were around the city when the Lord entered in the triumphal procession and was later crucified. Where were their voices in the story? They were not hot or cold, but lukewarm. They weren’t angry enough to hate Jesus, nor were they strong enough to love Him. So they simply passed Him by, unaware that their salvation was right before them.
|Homeless Jesus Statue by Timothy Schmalz|
The Passion narrative is a lengthy one and there is much there to ponder. It’s not meant to be something we read once a year and are done with it. We should come back to it regularly, but especially in this Holy Week of preparation for the Sacred Triduum and Easter. So that’s what I invite you to do. Take up this Gospel passage each day this week and read through it as you ask yourself the question: Where am I in here? Where is my voice? Am I full of love for the Lord? Am I full of hatred for some reason? Has my heart grown cold such that Jesus doesn’t really have an impact upon my life? Where am I in here? Where is my voice?
O Good Jesus, let your Precious Blood truly be upon us, not to condemn us, but to heal us and save us.