He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:7-8
A few years ago, my son became fascinated with the violin. We listen to the violin music and watch YouTube videos, and for a while he took lessons. His enthusiasm for the violin prompted a longtime family friend to share the story of how her father’s violin skill saved his life during the Holocaust. His autobiography and oral history recordings in the United States Holocaust Museum recount the horrific things he witnessed. Yet, his entire story was interwoven with his testimony of God’s love and care for him and others.
At 14-years-old, his father was beaten to death before his eyes in a concentration camp. He begged the guards to spare his father and take him instead but to no avail. Then this young man began quietly chanting Psalm 22, “Eli, Eli, lomo azavtoni— My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken us?” As Jesus takes our place, He prays these same words on the cross. Survivors, scholars, and theologians all ask “where was God” in these atrocities. In this one personal narrative of the Holocaust, it felt like God walked into the labor camps, the mines, the barracks, and the crematoria with this boy and his family. Jesus’ Passion was being played out in Dachau and Auschwitz. The crucifixion of Jesus was happening in that moment.
The Passion is not a historical account of something that happened 2,000 years ago. The Passion of Jesus is happening today. It is happening on our borders. It is happening in Ukraine. It is happening in the gang violence that captivates our cities and the opioid epidemic that has rocked so many families. The Passion is in the terrible abuse of people and power by Church leadership. The Passion is in loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Each of us is sharing in the suffering of Christ, and each of us is witnessing that suffering in those around us. Do I choose to stand and bear witness, to accompany Jesus in each of these moments?
What if I entered Holy Week with this living, breathing Jesus in mind? What if I were less detached from those around me? Can I imagine their hopes and suffering on the cross with Jesus, alongside my own?