Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord B
Around this time each year,
I look forward to the annual Spring musical
put on by our teenagers over at Franklin Academy.
So much talent and hard work go into those productions!
This year’s performance was no exception.
But as much I might enjoy the show,
there’s always an invisible line
drawn right at the edge of the stage.
I may have been entertained or even inspired;
a catchy tune or life lesson might follow me home.
But the world I’ve just seen taking shape under the lights
is not my world:
I do not enter it, and it does not enter mine.
There’s a boundary fixed
between the world of the musical and the real world,
between the show’s cast and its audience.
Around this time each year,
we again hear the story of the Lord’s Passion.
And because we customarily break up the reading
into different parts, different voices,
it can seem an awful lot like a script…
…but that’s awfully deceiving.
This, you see, is not a play.
And we, my friends, are not an audience.
When it comes to Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection,
there are no mere observers.
Everyone is an actor in it.
The Church’s annual celebration of Holy Week
is more than a simple retelling of a tale from the past—
however moving or meaningful.
And it’s much more than an historical reenactment—
no matter that all we commemorate is history,
and, indeed, at history’s very heart.
This week—if we allow ourselves—
we are swept up once again into the Paschal Mystery.
The line between past and present disappears.
Because of the time warp that is the sacred liturgy,
“then and there” becomes “here and now.”
There’s no line marking the edge of the stage:
the curtain has not only been raised,
but the veil has been torn completely in two.
That’s why we wave palm branches.
That’s why we break bread at the Lord’s Supper.
That’s why we’ll embrace—even kiss—the precious wood of the Cross.
That’s why we’ll wait in daring hope outside a tomb of stone.
We’re so much more than spectators!
And all that we see taking place
not only happens here in the real world—
it’s the most real thing in the world,
and uniquely has the power to transform the whole world.
If you’re an actor in this drama,
then what part have you chosen to play?
Are you the woman with the perfumed oil,
who spares no expense when it comes to showing her devotion,
or someone who regards such a display as a waste?
Are you Peter, who denies in order to save his own skin,
or Judas, who betrays for reasons
maybe even he doesn’t understand?
Are you a member of the Sanhedrin,
so afraid of change that you’re willing
to falsify the facts right in front of you,
or are you Pilate, who’s easily swayed by political forces,
yet afraid to rock the boat?
Are you swept up with the crowd, calling for Barabbas…
…just because everybody else is, too?
Are you willing to shout, “Hosanna!” one day,
but then cry, “Crucify him!” another?
Are you Simon, reluctantly pulled in from the sidelines,
or Joseph, who had previously followed in secret
but has suddenly found his courage?
Are you Salome or one of the two Mary’s,
who have been faithful all along
and aren’t about to change course now?
Or do you claim to take no part whatsoever—
which is, ironically, to chose the role of so many
who stood silently by, or left and fled?
This is not a play,
and there is no audience.
You must act.
Choose your part.
with inspiration from G. Rutler