April 1, 2007
PALM SUNDAY (C)
Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, & the leader as the servant. – Luke 22: 26
When W. H. Auden, one of the premier poets of the 20th century, was asked “What is the job of a poet today?” he replied “to protect the language.” He had experienced first hand in Berlin during the early 1930’s how the Nazis had abused language with devastating consequences. He would probably be just as perturbed today at how we’ve become accustomed to using words to twist reality, to cover up, both in advertising & in politics – so much so that we’ve learned to accept it & participate in it.
With our Lord there was no mincing of words, no twisting of reality. When he said “Let … the leader [be] as the servant” He was not repeating a campaign slogan. The Navy taught me that no leader should ask subordinates to do anything that he himself is not willing to do, & Holy Week reminds us the Jesus did just that – not only by washing our feet but also by suffering a hideous death for us. For those who take Him seriously the implications are clear enough, which could account for our tendency to not really listen to what He is saying.
It is not our position in life that counts, but what we do with it. It is not the mere exercising of authority that counts, but how we exercise that power & authority (as parents, for example). Power, prestige or authority cannot account for the human person’s deepest hunger & thirst & hope, & they will not be fulfilling, in themselves. Jesus is saying that it is terribly important for us not only to be here in Church, but also to know why we have come & what we are doing here. The Christian faith is not a status symbol, but the very foundation of human living & living humanly. Jesus is telling us that Christian faith is not a luxury, but a necessity. It is necessary now because it is now when we need to know who we are & how we ought to live.
“To live humanly means to live for others” is a nice phrase, but it remains mere words until translated into deeds. Shall we wink in disbelief as our Lord speaks of serving others as our rule of life, or shall we close both eyes & repeat the words of an anguished Jesus in the Garden: “Father … not my will but yours” (Luke 22: 42). AMEN!