BISHOP JEFFREY HAINES
As you know, every year, on the commemoration of Palm Sunday and Good Friday, our celebration of the Liturgy includes a proclamation of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each year, the particular version of the Passion which is proclaimed varies according to the Evangelist who authored the text, but the basic core and essence of the story remains.
I once had a former parishioner challenge me on that tradition. He asked, “Why do we need to read the entire Passion every year? We already know the story. And, it’s so long. It makes the liturgy go on and on. Why do we need to hear it again and again?”
And, to that, I offer the following response. There are many reasons why we read the Passion every year.
Every year, we read about the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and about the Apostles who keep falling asleep, because we still live in a world where people suffer alone and neglected, abandoned without support.
Every year, we read about Jesus being betrayed by Judas and handed over to authorities by a kiss, because we still live in a world where there are people victimized by treachery and deceit.
Every year, we read about the Chief Priests, Elders and Scribes of the Sanhedrin holding a travesty of a trial riddled with false testimony, because we still live in a world where people are denied justice and the law fails to protect.
Every year, we read about Peter denying Jesus three times, because we still live in a world where people fail to stand up for what is right and lack the courage to defend what is good.
Every year, we read about the interrogation of Pontius Pilate with Jesus standing silent before his accusations amidst the shouts of the crowd, because we still live in a world where some people have no voice and whose every effort to speak is diminished by the roar of the many.
Every year, we read about Jesus being scourged, beaten and battered by the Roman soldiers, because we still live in a world where violence is used to control and dominate.
Every year, we read about the voices of the angry crowd reviling, mocking and taunting Jesus, because we still live in a world where abusive language is used to bully, demean, threaten and strip discourse of its civility.
Every year, we read about the horrific suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, because we still live in a world where the sacredness of life is not fully protected and its proper respect is crucified.
Every year, we read the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday – no matter how well we know it, no matter how long it takes to proclaim – because it happens still. Abandonment, betrayal, injustice, denial, voicelessness, violence, abusive speech and disrespect for the sacredness of life are the very evils which extend the suffering of Christ to our day and time. And so, we will continue to proclaim the Passion until we are so moved by its power and poignant message to transform our world.