“Crucify him! Crucify him!”
When I was young, I attended Catholic grade school in Chicago. For the most part, I really loved all the liturgies and traditions that accompanied the change of seasons throughout each school year. Lent, Holy Week and Easter were heralds of Spring that triggered a “deep cleaning” of my inner life (as much as could be expected of a grade schooler) and daydreams about Summer break with all of its delights.
There was one liturgy that we attended each year that I dreaded, the reading of the Passion. My stomach would churn when we would pull on our spring jackets and line up in the classroom to walk across the parking lot to the church. I would feel sick with anxiety knowing what was coming, that we would all play our part in the reading of the Passion.
Not only was I certain that I would not be able to read the part of “the crowd” along with my classmates, I would always cry during that gospel reading. I felt so deeply for poor Jesus and the abuse he had to endure. At the same time, I was embarrassed by my tears and wondered if that embarrassment was a betrayal like Peter’s denials.
During the reading of the Passion for the last few years, the sweet little girl of my younger self always come to mind. Why am I not weeping for my poor, sweet Jesus? How can I now bring myself to say the words of the crowd when it is my turn to say, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
It was a blessing and a grace that the kind of violence depicted in the Passion readings was not a part of my young life. I had no experience of cruelty and brutality, for which I am incredibly grateful. Now, as a 50-something adult, I have seen the cruelty and brutality of the world. My heart has been hardened. I mourn the loss of that tender heart that could feel for my Jesus. I wonder, what can I do to that back?
Maybe my hardness of heart has not come from the things I have seen on the news or read online, but from the violence of my own sin, from the cruelty and brutality of indifference, selfishness or just laziness? By my thoughtless actions or unchecked faults, am I screaming with the crowd, “Crucify him! Crucify him”?
In Ann Weems book, Kneeling in Jerusalem, she writes a Good Friday poem that speaks to my heart:
THE COURTYARD SCENE
Over and over again
we sit in our courtyards,
our mouths speaking what our hearts are full of…
WE DO NOT KNOW HIM
KNOWHIMKNOWHIMKNOWHIM echoes loudly
filling time and space
heaven and earth;
the saddest part is
when the cock crows
we don’t have the ears to hear
At least Peter had the ears to hear
And the heart to weep.
God bless you as you take the heart journey through this day, Good Friday!