“Humanity is fickle. They may dress for a morning coronation and never feel the need to change clothes for an execution in the afternoon. So Triumphal Sundays and Good Fridays always fit comfortably into the same April week.” It was more than 35 years ago that I first read these lines in The Singer by Calvin Miller. To this day, they come to my mind every year on Passion Sunday. They speak to me of our propensity as humans to be “fair weather” friends.
When I think of the story told on this day, I love to enter into it imaginatively. I wonder about the smells of the palm fronds covering the ground and the sweat of the crowd. I wonder about the sound of the shouting as Jesus passes. I wonder about feelings of frustration trying to see over that too tall woman in front of me and, perhaps, being poked in the face by waved palm branches. I wonder if I were transported back in time, would I be energetically waving palms to celebrate the King of Kings riding into Jerusalem on a donkey? Or would I be off in the distance, curious or even judging the frenzy of the crowd?
And then, I wonder, as the week progressed, where would I be? Standing at the foot of the cross – faithful to the end? Observing from the margins? Hiding in fear? Certainly, an honest account of my life says that any one of these are possible. I have been faithful like Mary and I have betrayed like Peter. I have also been surrounded by friends who were faithful to me in my darkest hours and friends who have betrayed me at the same time.
I often ask myself: would I have admitted to knowing Christ if my life was at stake? We betray people for less. We protect our jobs, our positions and our possessions when we are called to take a stand for a greater truth.
It is easy, even energizing, to attend a large rally in support of some moral cause. But, it is terrifying to speak up for that same cause in the lunchroom, in the midst of unsympathetic colleagues. The call to follow Christ is not only when it is comfortable and keeps us safe, but also when it challenges us and calls us to suffer. It is a great comfort to me to know that Christ loved both Mary and Peter. And Christ loves us even in our fickleness and infidelity.
Christine Way Skinner is a lay minister and author. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. Christine loves trying to find inclusive, compelling and creative ways to pass on the church’s 2000 year old traditions. She also loves art, playing music, reading, gardening and playing board games with her children. Among Christine’s numerous publications is the Catholic Kid’s Library Series and There Must be a Pony in Here Somewhere.