Thursday, April 02, 2009

From Palms to Poison - A Flashback Episode

(I've begun watching with my freshmen students at Malvern, The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's blockbuster movie from 2004. The following is a "flashback post" from last year at this time. I'd like to post a couple this week, as well as, I hope, some fresh content.) SNAPSHOT: There's a scene in the movie where Jesus first takes up his Cross, and in those first few steps, surrounded by a swirling, spitting, angry mob, we see his eyes, swollen and bloodied, looking out to see palm branches being laid at his feet. For just a few seconds, we see what he saw just five days before. Palms laid out before a King. Cheers and cloaks and green palms falling before the grey, stiff ears of the colt He's riding. Then, in a flash, we're back to the painful, poisonous glare of the crowds. Five days. Just five short days was all the difference there was between praise and utter rejection. How fickle we can be. "How torturous is the human heart, who can understand it," one of the prophets once wrote.The crowds quickly turn, like leaves in the wind, blowing from one side of the street to the other. No rhyme, no reason. The powers that be, the molders and shapers of the thought of the masses have declared that Jesus is no longer "in." Jesus is "out." And so he is. I wonder if they ever talked to Jesus? Did they ever look for Him for themselves? Actually seek Him out? Or was the connection merely based on hearsay... "They" say he's the Messiah. "They" say he's John the Baptist. He gave us bread and fish and miracles. It's easy to go with the flow, to talk "about" Jesus and the Church at the watercoolers and in the cafeterias of the world. It's harder to talk "to" Jesus. To get beyond the shallow surface. To look him in the eye and ask him "Who are you?" And to wait for the answer. We are too often like animals; we find safety in numbers. We give in to the herd instinct. Afraid of the great dark, cold, alone of standing up for someone, we huddle up in the warmth of compromise and comfortability. We'd rather "read the Times than read the eternities," and trust the most untrustworthy source for giving us the truth about anything (or anyone): the media monster. But there were some in that crowd on that via dolorosa, that Walk that Remade the World, that stood out, and stood up for him. Unlike the faceless, nameless crowd, we remember them... Veronica, Simon, Mary, John. The question for us today is the same as it was then, when the palms that praise are turned to poisonous accusation and bitterness: Where will we stand?

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