Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of welcome, palms waving in the air as a sign of victory. It was the same way they greeted a king. The way we greet someone who is supposed to vanquish the enemy and save us – a messiah. The problem with this messiah, is that he was a healer, not a warrior.
He pointed to us, his disciples, and tried to teach us how to be healing agents in the world, tried to help us understand that salvation is not about destroying those who are inconvenient to our lives, who trouble us and make us aware of our own complacency and privilege.
Salvation lies in the message of his Sermon on the Mount (transliteration from The Message):
- you’re blessed when you mourn, when you are at the end of your rope, when you’re content with who you are
- you’re blessed when you care, when your mind and heart are in alignment, when you can show people how to cooperate instead of fight
- you’re blessed every time people put you down or speak lies about you because you are pointing to the Truth
Because you are pointing to the Truth.
Thomas Merton was a Christian mystic and poet – a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky. In his book, No Man Is an Island, he wrote about Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”
“We are too much like Pilate. We are always asking, “What is truth?” and then crucifying the truth that stands before our eyes… [Pilate’s] belief that the question did not require an answer was itself his answer. He thought the question could not be answered… But even in his denial, Pilate confessed his need for the truth. No [one] can avoid doing the same in one way or another because our need for truth is inescapable… (189)
The fact that [people] are constantly talking shows that they need the truth, and that they depend on their mutual witness in order to get the truth formed and confirmed in their minds. But the fact that [people] spend so much time talking about nothing or telling each other lies that they have heard from one another or wasting their time in scandal and detraction and [slander] and [vulgarity] and ridicule shows that our minds are deformed with a kind of contempt for reality.
Instead of conforming ourselves to what is, we twist everything around, in our words and thoughts, to fit [how our own mind needs to see it. And the seat of this need] is in the will… Our wills are plunged in false values, and our restless tongues bear constant witness to the disorganization inside our souls.” (190-1)
Merton includes this from the letter of James, “the tongue no [person] can tame, an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison. By it we bless God and the Father, and we curse [people] who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3:8-10)
How can we possibly be so self-righteous as to think that we know who deserves to be cursed?
How can we possibly be so arrogant as not to see the glory of God shine through in every creature, every atom of creation?
The Truth we crucify is that which is inconvenient for us to believe.
- from the extreme humanitarian crisis in Syria and our culpability in it by denying access of refugees, to the stripping of people’s rights and repealing of environmental protection policies… We would rather not see this. But we do.
- from our need for strawberries on our tables in winter which deprives Mexican people of the lands they’ve farmed for centuries and makes it impossible to feed their families, to the continued pillaging of the land and water of native peoples for the convenience of business profit… We would rather not know about this. But we do.
- from to the gossip we spread about others so that we feel better about ourselves, to the denial of our own beloved nature and worth… We would rather believe lies about ourselves and others than the Truth.
Merton goes on to say, that in a society like ours, with all the comforts we experience, “life has become so easy that we think we can get along without telling the truth. A liar no longer needs to feel that his lies may involve him in starvation… Half the civilized world makes a living by telling lies. Advertising propaganda, and all the other forms of publicity that have taken the place of truth have taught [people] to take it for granted that they can tell other people whatever they like provided it sounds plausible and evokes some kind of shallow emotional response.” (193)
There is Truth. We know it when we see it. It’s nothing that we need to brag about on Facebook or seek affirmation for or feel justified about or protect ourselves from.
Truth is Love incarnate – mercy, justice, kindness.
Nothing more, nothing less.
When we protect ourselves from receiving and offering mercy…
When we stop ourselves from striving for justice for all people…
When we prevent ourselves from performing inconvenient acts of kindness…
from believing deeply in God’s love for us…
then, we are the Crowd standing with Pilate in a tomb of death, yelling “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Crucifying the Truth that stands before our eyes.