I don’t recall right now who it was – probably Fr. DeRosa – but someone recently described a great painting of Jesus’ Way of the Cross. It has all of the characters we recognize from the Passion reading – His Mother Mary, Pilate, the soldiers, the women of Jerusalem, John the Beloved Disciple, Simon of Cyrene -- along the great course of His way of sorrow, which winds through a Jerusalem painted in extensive detail. But Jerusalem is populated by the artists’ contemporaries as well, who are doing things that 17th century Dutch villagers would have done, wearing 17th century Dutch clothing. None are paying the least bit of attention to the drama unfolding in their midst.
As we accompany Jesus through His Passion this week, it is hard not to realize that in addition to all the physical abuse that was heaped upon Him on His way to death on the Cross, He was humiliated. Synonyms I found for humiliated were: broken, crushed, humbled, low, and embarrassed. I think that conveys a lot of the sense of it. Very little human dignity was left to Him who was, in fact, God, and who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:6b-7)
As well as the active humiliation from those who spat or shouted at Him, was the passive humiliation of those who took no notice. Of course, everyone has work to do; everyone has a life, a job, a family, and obligations, and can’t be expected to drop everything. We cringe to realize that this, however, is the Son of God, being executed on false charges. This is The Immortal One being crucified to death, not for His guilt, but for the guilt of any and everyone who has sinned.
Last Sunday afternoon, we held our parish Lenten penance service. Fr Derosa invited eight priests to join the three of us who live here to make available to you the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus purchased with His own life’s blood. We started at five and folded the tent a little after six.
No one came. Well, there were maybe fifteen folks when we started, and I can’t tell for sure since I was in the confessional, but I know we didn’t get to fifty people, and under forty is very likely. I thought of all these priests who gave up their Sunday afternoon to help me bring God’s mercy to my parishioners, and I was humiliated.
My brother priests didn’t say anything, of course. One did observe it was an awfully nice day. No one seemed even remotely irritated. It was awkward, though, and sad, for all of us.
Too frequently, I am humiliated because of my own rashness, selfishness, or foolishness. I don’t like that, and I didn’t like this, either. There was solace in that this humiliation came to me because I was standing by Christ.
This Palm Sunday, at first we wave our palms and shout Hosanna!; then, we cry “Crucify Him!” with the crowd that stood before Jesus and Pilate. Let us not take this role-playing too much to heart, and reenact the day that the Son of God died for love of us – and most people did not even notice.