"Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52)
This Palm Sunday, we witness in the Scriptures the events leading up to and surrounding Jesus’ Passion which include:
His peaceful entry on a donkey into Jerusalem,
His nonviolent action of cleansing the Temple,
His celebration of the Passover meal with his disciples, the first Eucharist,
His betrayal by Judas,
His command to put away the sword,
His imprisonment, torture, and trial,
His denial by Peter,
His abandonment by most of his disciples,
And his execution.
Crucifixion — the most humiliating and excruciating form of death imaginable – was the primary method of capital punishment used by the Roman empire to execute criminals, dissidents, and revolutionaries. Jesus was killed because his radical proclamation of God’s reign of justice, love, and peace could not be tolerated by those in religious and political power.
During his crucifixion, Jesus exemplified what it means to love one's enemies by forgiving those killing him. His example on the cross of self-emptying love ushered in a new nonviolent era for humanity rooted in the command to love and never to kill.
Ultimately, Jesus conquered the cross and was raised to new life.
Theologian Leonardo Boff writes: “Jesus continues to be crucified in all those who are crucified in history...There are not enough Stations of the Cross to depict all the ways in which the Lord continues to be persecuted, imprisoned, condemned to death and crucified today.”
St. Oscar Romero, who was shot by an assassin while celebrating the Eucharist, declared: “It is necessary to accompany Jesus in Lent, in a Holy Week that is cross, sacrifice, martyrdom.”
Romero’s funeral was held on Palm Sunday 1980. In 1984, as I prayed at Romero’s tomb, I recalled his appeal to Salvadoran soldiers and police to stop killing their brothers and sisters: “...In the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God should prevail… ’Do not kill!’”
Romero also forgave his own killers: “You can tell them that if they succeed in killing me, I pardon and bless those who do it.”
In a world where all life is endangered, we need to join with all those boldly proclaiming the Gospel of nonviolence and advocating for peace and restorative, racial, social, and environmental justice.
During this Holy Season, let us be filled with the resurrection hope of Jesus and the Holy Cloud of Witnesses as we strive to make God’s reign and the Beloved Community a reality.
See More Like This Throughout Holy Week: Sign Up for CMN Lenten Reflections
Sign up below for weekly reflections written by people of faith working to transform the criminal legal system.