Friday, April 18, 2014

Our Role

Every year, the season of Lent draws to a close with a reading of the Passion narrative, first from one of the synoptic gospels on Palm Sunday, then from the Gospel of John on Good Friday. The readings on Palm Sunday and Good Friday are long, and unlike every other gospel that the Church reads during the year, the Passion narratives are read in parts, with the celebrant taking the lines spoken by Jesus, a narrator reading out the bulk of the text, a third participant reading the lines of certain individuals (e.g., Pilate or Peter), and the congregation speaking for the chorus.

There are parts that get uncomfortable to read from the pews, such as when we are called to say, “We have no king but Caesar,” or “His blood be upon us and upon our offspring,” and especially “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Even as we read those lines, our mind screams, “No! I don't mean it!”

There are some people who refuse to participate. The will not speak those words. Their intention is commendable, but I think that there is a reason the Church has us read those parts during the liturgy.

Mel Gibson understood this when he filmed The Passion of the Christ. Whatever weaknesses and character flaws the man might have revealed in years after the great success of the project, I do not doubt the sincerity of the pious conviction that motivated him to undertake The Passion's production. Although an actor of great talent, he allowed himself to play only one role in The Passion of the
Christ, and even then, nobody would know that it was him without being told. During the crucifixion scene, it was Gibson's hands that nailed our Lord to the cross. It was his way of holding himself accountable for what Christ suffered.

It was this same sensibility that lead Fr. Richard John Neuhaus to write, in Death on a Friday Afternoon, “John Donne was right: 'No man is an Island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.' It was not only for our sins, but surely for our sins too. What a complex web of complicity is woven by our lives. Send not to know by whom the nails were driven; they were driven by you, by me.”

We are fools if we do not admit that the original sin of Adam is our sin as well. Jesus died for our sins as much as for anybody else's. We put him on the cross and hammered the nails as much as anybody, and that is why it is necessary for us to say the words. If we do not admit the sin, how can we claim the forgiveness?

Were you there when we crucified our Lord?