“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Dear People of El Camino Real,
The mass shootings of the past weeks in Atlanta and Boulder make our Holy Week journey this year more noticeably incarnational and painful. Innocent people of different races, ages, and genders have been gunned down. One shooter was a professed member of a Christian community.
We cannot, as Christian people, turn a blind eye to violence. Not again. We cannot claim that it resides in another place, or that it is merely due to the condition of any one person. We cannot claim that it lies outside of our parishes or our Christian communities.
As Christians, we cannot profess a distance between ourselves and violence, because ours is a religion that springs from a place and a time that was violent. When Jesus walked in Israel and Palestine, he was walking in places of violence, murder, rape, and disregard for the dignity of every human being. He himself was a victim of this disregard; our scriptural story of Holy Week is the story of Jesus as he experienced betrayal from someone close to him, denial by one in his inner circle, the mockery of soldiers, the turning away of officials. He died a violent death, on a cross, publicly humiliated in his last moments, without care or the dignity of hospice or comfort care.
The reason that we don’t skip over Holy Week and move directly from Palm Sunday to Easter is because it is important to walk through the deeply human history of Jesus’ movement toward the cross. It is essential that we pause along the way to remember that while Jesus met violence with non-violence and love, his followers have continued to struggle throughout history with what it means to follow his example and walk in that way with Jesus. Sometimes we are more successful than other times, as our Christian history is one of repeated cycles of violence perpetuated in the name of God—in contrast to the God we know to be loving, liberating and life-giving.
Our struggle with violence is real, historic, and an important part of our collective spiritual journey. By acknowledging its reality in our faith communities, we have the potential to overcome it with love—tough love.
Let us proceed into the Three Great Days, not averting our gaze or denying the existence of violence, but facing it head-on, learning its root causes and denouncing violence and hate in all their forms. For it is by walking the way of the cross that we learn of our potential to alternately walk the way of mercy and grace. Then, we may eventually reach the empty tomb and the recognition of God’s great love as together we cry, “He is risen!”
Walking the way faithfully with you,