Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Good question! Were you there when my Lord was crucified? Where were you? What would you have done if you were there when my Lord Jesus Christ was crucified?

One night the Philadelphia Orchestra was performing a Beethoven overture conducted by Leopold Stokowski. In it, a part for a trumpet is played offstage. When the time came for the offstage trumpet, there was no sound. Leopold, the conductor, was furious, but he went on with the presentation. Again, the time came for the offstage trumpet, but they were greeted with silence. After the overture ended, Leopold, the conductor went offstage to find out why the trumpeter did not do his job. There he was, his arms pinned to his side by a security guard who said to Leopold, “Sir, this nut was trying to play his trumpet while your concert was going on out there. Thank God I got here in good time to prevent him.”

Today is the beginning of the holiest week of the year, the week that has a unique adjective for the days of the week; the Saturday and the Thursday are Holy, the Friday is Good, and the Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday. In it, we also have the Fig Monday and Spy Wednesday. This week tells the story of our salvation in a unique way, which will be celebrated in beautiful liturgies with a lot of symbols and very rich readings. (Sometimes, I am tempted to think that with a well-prepared Liturgy of Holy Week, there should be no homily so that we can be left in awe and wonder of the rich liturgical readings and symbols).

As we go through this intense week of the Passion of Our Lord, there is the temptation to go through it as mere spectators; there is the temptation to think that the story of the Passion of our Lord is something that happened about two thousand years ago and we have no role to play in it. On the contrary, we are invited to be active participants, to be actors playing special roles in the passion. It is an ongoing reality and not just a long past event. At this beginning of Holy Week, it is crucial to identify the role we are playing. The next step is to know if we are proud of the role and if not, then we are challenged to change the role.

Let us take a look at some of the roles in the Passion Narrative. There is the role of the crowds. On Palm Sunday, they gathered to sing “Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” but a few days later, on Good Friday, they gathered to say of him, “We have no king but Caesar…Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” We play the role of the crowds when we use our hands to receive Holy Communion at Mass, and we go back home to use the same hands to strike our wives created in the image and likeness of God; or when we sing “Hosanna in the Highest” at Mass and afterward, we use the same mouth to curse our husbands created in the image and likeness of God.

Peter could not even allow for the possibility that he would let the Lord down. Yet, it was only a few hours later that he denied the Lord. Are we not all very proud at this Mass as priests and people of God? What happens after the Mass? Are we confident enough to make the sign of the Cross and pray before the meal at the restaurant? When we are with our classmates who don’t believe in God or are of other religions, do we not shy away from being identified with our faith? And at our places of work, when there is a discussion about faith and morals, do we proudly stand for our Catholic faith as given by our Lord, or do we try to be slippery and politically correct in order not to offend others? Can someone visit your Facebook page and tell by the content that you are for Christ?

As we continue our journey through Holy Week, it is also very easy to start blaming the Jews and seeing them as intrinsically evil and ungodly. As a little boy growing up in Nigeria, I remember wondering during Holy Week why Jesus was not born in Nigeria. I was somehow sure that Nigerians would not have killed Jesus as the Jews did.

To a large extent, the Jews were like the security guard we talked about at the beginning of the homily. They thought they were helping God. They saw Jesus as a nut who was trying to blow his trumpet to frustrate God’s concert, and so they rushed him to silence him, unknown to them that they were the ones frustrating the divine concert. We can also be guilty of this. Sometimes, the people we think are our enemies might be the ones fighting for us. Other times, God answers our prayers, but because the answers come in unfamiliar packages, we reject them. We must be careful when we fight for God in case we end up fighting against God. As we begin this Holy Week, may God grant us the grace to play such roles in the passion that will make us proud at the time of the resurrection, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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