Homily after the Blessing of Palms
Zechariah had prophesied:
Look, your king comes to you,
triumphant and victorious,
humble, and riding on an ass,
on a colt, the foal of an ass.
Who does this Galilean peasant this he is,
daring to enact Zechariah’s prophecy!
Who is this Jesus from Nazareth,
making himself out to be king!
Mark creates this dramatic scene to do two important things.
First, it confers on Jesus the divine authority
that comes from fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy,
an important qualification for the Jews who follow Jesus
after the resurrection.
Second, it shows the treasonous nature—
as seen by the Roman occupiers—
of the actions that led to Jesus’ crucifixion.
The passage also highlights the power of the nobodies:
a Galilean peasant and a mob of poor people;
not on a horse, like the rich and powerful,
but on a borrowed donkey;
not a royal carpet laid out for him
but tree branches and tattered coats.
Our tradition tells us that Christ is in everybody,
that God’s Divine Presence is in everybody,
but it’s not always easy to act like we believe it.
God’s Presence abides
in those nobodies on the road to Jerusalem.
Humbly, with the very shirts off their backs,
they rejoice at Jesus’ call
to live the way of dignity and freedom.
They see Jesus for the liberator that he is.
They recognize God’s abiding Presence in him
because he treats them with love
and calls them to do the same to one another.
He really is their king.
Let’s continue on our way,
humbly, opening our eyes wide
to notice God’s Divine Presence in everyone we meet.
Homily after the Passion
Power and authority are not necessarily bad.
Many of you heard Rick Gaillardetz’s lecture last week at CCUP
in which he made some very meaningful observations
on the nature of power and authority.
He defined power as “the capacity for effective action.”
He further distinguished authentic church power
as “the capacity for effective action
in service of Christian discipleship.”
Throughout history our Church has sometimes failed
to use power authentically.
Hindsight is 20/20.
Looking back, we can see the seriously distorted use
of our Church’s power
in the Crusades, the Inquisition,
and the practice of excommunication.
Dr. Gaillardetz went on to define authority
as legitimate and trustworthy power within relationships.
He observed that authentic authority
requires good will to all, competency, and accountability.
So authentic authority would not constrain
but would empower people and enable their freedom;
authentic authority would will the common good—
good for each individual
and good for all people.
Why was Jesus executed?
It’s important to remember that it was not because of “the Jews”
but because of the corrupt use of power
both in the Roman Empire
and among some of the leaders of his religion.
Unfortunately, our institutional Church
has spent long periods of time—indeed, centuries—
exercising that same kind of corrupt power
and calling it “God’s will.”
The first Christians were pacifists,
following the non-violent way of Jesus
and the sixth commandment: You shall not kill.
Roman soldiers who wanted to be baptized had to resign.
After Constantine, in 312, began to conquer "in Christ's name,"
Christianity became entangled with the state,
and warfare and violence
were increasingly justified by influential Christians.
Eventually the misuse of power led to the Crusades,
where, for nearly 500 years,
our “holy” armies ruthlessly slaughtered civilians
who followed other faiths.
Then came the Inquisition,
where our “holy” leaders imprisoned, tortured, and killed
Catholics who followed Christ
in ways different from what the leaders considered correct.
That travesty continued worldwide until the early 19th century,
when the Roman Catholic Church
lost the political power to jail and torture and execute,
but the Holy Office of the Inquisition survives
as part of the Curia, under a different name.
Since 1965 it’s been called
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
That’s the agency by which our “holy” Roman Catholic Church
continues to exclude faithful members
who follow their conscience in opposition to church rules,
the agency that is still investigating our U.S. sisters
for tending the poor instead of preaching dogmas.
By the time Mark writes the passion story that we read today,
the followers of Jesus had been routed from Jerusalem
along with the other Jews,
and the myth of blame that eventually led to the Holocaust
had already taken root.
Our so-called Christian world today has not embraced pacifism,
nor have we learned the lessons
from the Crusades or the Inquisition.
That’s why it’s urgent that we, as followers of Jesus,
remember why Jesus suffered and died.
He spoke the truth to corrupt powers;
He ministered among, and to, the poor and downtrodden.
He offended those few Jewish leaders
who cooperated with their foreign oppressors.
He called ordinary people to take part in the kin-dom of God.
He empowered common people
to step into their own dignity
and honor the dignity of others.
That angered and frightened the Roman occupiers.
Jesus’ beliefs and actions as a faithful Jew
brought him to the cross.
So will our beliefs and actions as faithful Christians
bring us to the cross.
This Holy Week gives us time to reflect on our cross,
on how we might follow more closely the example of Jesus.
It gives us time to step back and look at power and authority,
at the corrupt kind and the authentic kind,
and to re-dedicate ourselves
to walk the Way that Jesus showed us.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006