“Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”…With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed.” – Luke 23: 20-21, 23
Yes, I know, it is the Easter season, but there is still something so haunting to me about Palm Sunday. I think in order for me to really enjoy Easter, I have to take responsibility for my role in Good Friday. There can be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.
On Palm Sunday and Good Friday we heard or participated in some way in the Passion. We were in the crowd that cried out for Jesus to be crucified. Was I there that day in the square? I may as well have been. For goodness sake, even Peter denied that he knew Jesus, would I really have been any different? Sure, I’d like to think that I could have been the lone voice crying out in the crowd, “FREE JESUS, KEEP BARABBAS!” When we read the Passion on Palm Sunday I cringe when we get to the part where we all are instructed to cry out for His crucifixion. I don’t want to cry out, I don’t even want to whisper, “Crucify Him.” However, in all the years I’ve gone to Mass on Palm Sunday, I’ve never once thought that I’d cry out anything. My only option is silence. Part of that hesitancy to shout out anything else is because we are reading the Gospel, the inspired word of God, and I know I have no place to change those words. But even that is a cop-out and reveals my true nature: when the going gets tough, I cling to silence. I don’t shout out for Jesus’ freedom, I don’t cry out out of anguish or horror that my Lord is being unjustly sentenced. Instead, I simply join the crowd.
Pilate, the voice who wanted to release Jesus, gave us an opportunity to free Jesus. Isn’t there always a voice that seeks to free us? Call it your conscience, the voice of reason, the Holy Spirit guiding you, call it whatever you want, but it wants to free us. It wants to keep us from crucifying Jesus over and over again. So often I ignore that voice. I join the crowd, again and again. What lesson can I learn from Palm Sunday, from the crowd crying out? Silence isn’t the answer. That voice that is giving me an opportunity to be free, to free Jesus, is one that I should listen to. I learn that silence isn’t good enough. Simply not participating isn’t good enough. I must do more, I must be the lone voice in the crowd, if that is where God is calling me. Do I think that one voice could have saved Jesus? Clearly, Pilate’s voice did not, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have tried. The Passion, then, teaches me to try. It teaches me that being just another face in the crowd, in the sea of chants and screams, isn’t what I want for my life. I want Him, even if that means that crying out means I follow Him to the cross.