Lenten Reflections 2017: Sixth Week of Lent, Palm Sunday

February 17, 2017

By: Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International

Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017

“Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

The 2017 World Day of Peace message makes special note of this passage that we read in the Gospel on Palm Sunday. In the message Pope Francis writes, “When, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword, Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility.”

We live in a world that is racked with destructive violence.  We know it well – we feel it – we fear it – we mourn its impact. The violence is institutional and structural.  It is the death penalty, racism, Islamophobia, poverty, hunger, environmental destruction, sexism, abortion.  It is the possession of weapons of mass destruction, trafficking in small arms and light weapons, street violence, police brutality, domestic violence, drug abuse.  All around us violence is begetting violence.

But we also live in a world where human beings deliberately counter the violence – by nonviolent actions of love and justice; by patterns of living that nurture life; by fully and humbly facing the demons within; by persistent, courageous resistance to the violence in its many forms.

The Gospel does not call us to be neutral, refusing to choose sides. Those friends, especially the women, who accompanied Jesus, were not neutral as they mourned Jesus’ brutal execution.  Rather, they were engaged and foolishly willing to risk everything by being at the foot of the cross.

This week we too will follow the Way of the Cross. Much more than the reenactment of a 2000 year old drama, this public liturgy invites us to deliberate, strategically orchestrated, sometimes public, actions to take on and absorb the destructive violences around us. By Jesus move toward Jerusalem, by his agony and death on the cross, we are invited into the fullness of life, poured out into the places of violence we all so fearfully inhabit.