As we approach Holy Week, it is important to see Holy Week and the death and resurrection of the Christ as an ongoing ever-present event. Jesus, like many before and after him, spoke truth to power and bad things happen to good people when they do that. How else can the system of wealth, greed and power perpetuate itself?
This week commemorates the assassination of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador because he fought the injustice perpetrated by the rich and powerful. He knew that he had a target on his back and would pay the ultimate price:
I have often been threatened with death. I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in a death without resurrection. If am killed, I shall arise again in the Salvadoran people…You may say, if they succeed in killing me, that I pardon and bless those who do it. Would , indeed, that they might be convinced that they will waste their time. A bishop will die, but God´s church, which is the people, will never perish. (http://www.razonypalabra.org.mx/anteriores/n19/19_hegil.html)
In today’s Gospel Jesus confront the Pharisees and rigid religious leaders who were in collaboration with the Roman authorities. Jesus had the audacity to tell them that he was in special relationship with God. He, like Yahweh, was “I am:”
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
Another marked prophet speaking the truth that would get him crucified as a common criminal.
This week Thomas Young, a dying paralyzed Iraq War veteran, spoke truth to power. They have in effect already killed him. Thomas Young spoke out against the corporate-government lies that led to his involvement in Iraq under disingenuous pretenses:
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. (http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/iraq-war-vet-letter-bush-cheney-tomas-young-154541674.html)
Our rector after reviewing the scripture readings then says, “So what?” The “so what” is huge here. It is a challenge to our faith. It is a call to speak truth to power. John Dear says it best in his weekly column:
It’s important not to love ourselves so much that we’re not willing to take the risks that history demands of us,” Romero said in his last homily, one minute before he was assassinated at the altar. That’s an important lesson for all of us — laypeople, priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and popes included. History, and the Christ of history, demand we take risks on behalf of suffering humanity and creation itself. Romero shows us we do not have to be afraid. We, too, can go forward, do what we can, speak out as best we can, and try to make a difference. (http://ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/looking-example-archbishop-oscar-romero)
We have gone from what one member of a Southern congregation described as going from preaching to meddling. Now we have to do something. Holy Week reminds us that it is time to fish or cut bait. It is time to stand on Gospel values of peace, justice, non-violence, mercy and forgiveness. It is time to challenge the false values of American Empire run amok. The Risen Cosmic Christ demands that we take risks on behalf of humanity and the creation. Remember, when you speak out, they will take up stones to silence you. Try speaking out in you “red” neighborhood or church and see what happens.