The Sheep of Kephas

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Were You There?

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It is now Holy Week. Each day of Lent has been a step along the way to Calvary. If our Lenten resolve has been maintained, we are beginning to share in a very small way in the Passion. This week the reflection on the deep suffering of Jesus and the weakness of the Apostles intensifies.

In a matter of minutes we witness the dramatic turn of events and emotions. We begin with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Soon, however, all turns to betrayal, darkness, agony and death. Since I was a child, I have often wondered: Would I betray? Would I fall asleep? Would I run away? Would I deny? Would I say, “Crucify him!” One song captures some of that questioning feeling:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh were you there when they crucified my Lord?
(Ohh, sometimes it causes me to tremble) Tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

On Palm Sunday and on Good Friday the Church does its best to put us there – there at the triumphant entry, there at the betrayal, there in moment of weakness, there in the panic and fear, there in an act of cowardice, and there in murderous rage. There, assembled together at Mass, the priests, deacons, lectors read the Passion. But the Church does not leave it to them alone. The Church in Her wisdom writes us into the script as if we were the crowds, traitors, and cowards of the Passion. Those are the parts we play. In my life I have played every one of them – my sinful thoughts and deeds were among the wounds suffered at Calvary.

I hesitate before what I say next. It is important that I not make this an opportunity for criticism. My sole intent is to share an emotion that is difficult to describe, yet it is an emotion the led to a momentary feeling of loss and emptiness. As noted earlier, the Church has written people like you and me into the role of the “crowd” at the Passion. Although I don’t like being identified with the role, I know that the role was written for me because I play it so well.

This evening at St. Peter’s I was written out of the script. Only one person read the lines of what used to be my part. I suppose the reason was because we no longer have missalettes at St. Peter’s. Without the script how could the crowd know when to say their lines?

And so it was. The Passion was read at St. Peter’s, but, in a very real sense, I was not there when they crucified my Lord.

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