Today is Palm Sunday. Today at mass we listen and participate in the reading of the Passion — of the final hours of Jesus of Nazareth. As Christians we know that whole story.
But, what of the expectations of those who didn’t already know? What of the expectations we have of others and ourselves — because we don’t know the whole story?
As I understand it, Judas expected Jesus to save himself. He did not expect that his betrayal would lead to Jesus’ death. He expected something different to happen. I suppose he might have thought he was giving Jesus the chance to be the militant, powerful Messiah that he expected. And then we read that when Judas saw what actually happened, he tried giving back the money. He couldn’t live with himself and he hung himself.
Peter expected that he would never deny Jesus. He was sure of himself. And yet, when the time came, he did just as Jesus predicted and denied knowing Jesus 3 times before the cock crowed. He wept bitterly. But, he hung in there and became a great witness.
This spring I have lost at least 3 people that would be counted as family. Unexpected. One fell, broke a hip which could not be fixed. It wound up ending her time here on earth. Unexpected. One took her own life. Not what you expect of the mother of a preschooler. Unexpected. One suffered a massive heart attack, only a week after having seen his heart doctor. Unexpected. I could rant against a system that let a woman fall and break her hip. I could be truly angry that a young woman would hurt so bad that she would end it all. I could be angry that a loved one didn’t manage to take better care of himself (as if that would have fixed everything). But, those were my expectations for them. Not God’s.
It’s hard not to have expectations of oneself and of others. It’s hard not to be angry and upset when we or others fail to live up to those expectations. But, I noticed in the Gospel reading today that even when Jesus knew that Judas would go and betray him, He called him “Friend” — “Friend, go and do what you must.” Friend. Think of that. He knew that a lot of pain was coming — for himself, for Judas, for others around. And He called him “Friend.”
So, I seek to look beyond my expectations of myself and others. I seek to live beyond my expectations to accept and love myself and others when they don’t live up to my expectations for them. And I’ll walk through this Holy Week looking to see beyond, and trying to accept reality. And love it.
Today’s Gospel reading was the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after he had been in the tomb for four days. Four days!
The reading is full of how Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. How they were very close friends. I began to think how we all have different roles to play: Jesus had a deep friendship with these people, but they were not called as disciples. None were among the twelve. I wondered why. It seems that these valued friends might have been among those called as disciples. But they weren’t.
We all have a special relationship with God, with the Trinity, with church, with each other. We each a call that is somewhat different from others. It makes me think of Paul with his “we are many parts, we are all one body.” Guess he got that idea from a good source. Some of those close to Jesus were called as the Apostles; others were close friends, Today, some are called to religious life, some to be a part of a particular religious group (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist — or Roman Catholic, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, various evangelical groups). This is good news! I can follow Jesus without having to feel “less” because I don’t preach or I haven’t quite found my niche. I can still be raised from the dead even after four days in a tomb.
I’ve pondered this budget that the new President has thrown out for consideration. I’ve listened to those, like Senator Ryan, who make claims about cutting out services as “an act of mercy.” I listened to those who voted for a candidate who is definitely not going to make their lives any better — who seem to vote in opposition to their own good. I’ve struggled with a feeling of superiority when I think I have a better way.
The source of all these ills it seems is Pride. Yup. Those currently in the White House are very proud of their own success. Senator Ryan it seems is very sure that his position and benefits are completely due to his own work. He is proud of himself and his accomplishments and is sure that those who have failed financially, relationship-wise and otherwise are simply not putting out the effort. He wants to push them to work hard and be proud. Those in coal country and others who voted for the current administration so often did so because they seek to be in a place where they can feel proud… no handouts, nobody to be as good as them, no need for a little help from their friends, no need to acknowledge that the Prosperity Gospel is not Christian Gospel.
And myself — I have to fight being proud that I don’t subscribe to so many of those ideas. Once you start thinking you are humble, you are not humble.
Yes, I believe that the government should serve the people. I believe that at least basic health care is as much a right as food and water and not being beaten up and abused by your neighbors. Yes, I think that tax dollars should support the common good such as the EPA, arts and humanities organizations, health care and food security — oh, and clean drinking water. On the political spectrum I probably tend a bit toward socialism, if that’s what you have to be to believe that the government is there to serve and protect the populace.
And still, I find that my beliefs cannot be allowed to make me feel proud and superior to those who see the world differently. These beliefs must call me to prayer. They must call me to a place where I respect others even while I disagree vehemently with them. If I let pride drive my actions, I find it all to easy to make fun of the other instead of pushing for justice.
Yeah — I know, they make it all to easy to make fun… but the results aren’t going to be any fun at all.
The tables are turned, I suppose. Those brothers and sisters of mine within the tent of the Roman Catholic Church who found great comfort in previous Popes who often focussed on devotions and rules and fairly strict behavioral and belief rules are now faced with a Holy Father who is willing to say “Who am I to judge?” or who is willing to face our need to care for our brothers and sisters without so much judgement, or who is willing to proclaim that we are stewards of all creation, and look at the mess we’ve made of that job.
To me, it seems that Francis is calling us to be transformed by our faith in God — our faith in the Trinity — so God, Jesus the Christ and the Spirit. He is calling on us to actually interact with the world from that place of transformation. To let go of our assumed superiority, or presumed chosen-ness and be agents of love and change in our world. To be the salt of the earth.
Sometimes, that flies in the face of rigid rules. Sometimes that forces us to look beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law. And, sometimes when I hear the criticism of relativism, I want to say “And you make that [relativism] sound like a bad thing. Really?”
As best I can tell, Jesus said “Follow me.” — not “Worship me.” Following, walking in His footsteps, trying to see the world as He saw it is far more life changing that worshipping Him and keeping change at a distance — don’t you think?
I am certainly guilty of this… sometimes I can only see the “eye” in this picture; sometimes I see a butterfly wing. And, when I am whole, awake and aware, I see both clearly. The point of view colors the the way we see our world, our friends, our universe, our God.