But it makes all of us stop and think. Anxiety isn't the will of God. But how are we to prayerfully respond... to terror? When you know there are groups of people who simply do not like you? Who abhor your religion? Who would like to see your country simply... vanish?
First, you have to extend the olive branch. Information doesn't always cure. Love does.
That's what Palm Sunday is all about. Jesus, submitting himself peacefully. Non-violently. To show that He was not a threat to their existence. His via dolorosa is the way to happiness.
Growing up Catholic, and with some friends who are Jewish, religious tolerance has been important to me since I was young. I know how it feels to have someone use offensive language when describing your beliefs, your emotions, your way of life. When Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek and to pray for those who persecute you, I think He's reminding us. You're not the only one who is scared. Submission is how you show that they may have been misled. You're peaceful. You're loving. You're compassionate.
Jesus didn't fight back or destroy the temple before them. That's what they mocked Him for, because they expected Him to. The Source of Grace Himself, ignored the taunt and secret fear that He would get angry and retaliate.
How do you respond to such hate?" Theoden asked Aragorn. And he responded, "Ride out to meet it. Head on." Even if you have to do it... alone.
So our Lord climbs onto a lowly donkey and rides into the city of his ancestor, the city built for Him and His father. And submits. Under the waving of palms, that He is a king who comes in peace. He will not respond the way they want him to, the way they think he will. Why?
Because He is not who they think He is. They have been misinformed. His mission is to set them right. To eventually, without harming them, or pushing them, or forcing them, help them to see the Truth.
That's what we get on Holy Saturday: the Truth as gently, irrevocable, captivating, convincing... as an empty tomb. Not a magic trick, a rhetorical slap in the face, a convincing argument, a returning gun shot. But it is God's final word in the matter. I Am who I say I am. Believe it, or not.
God is victor over the world's darkness. Whether you believe in Him, or not.
I was sixteen on September 11, 2001. I don't reflect much upon it except I know when I was a child, an airplane in the sky was a source of joy and wonder. They say childhood ends when the first person you love passes away. I think anxiety is born - if you didn't have it before - the first time you realize you're mortal and at any time another person, another power you can't control, can snuff you or the people you love right out. We spend the rest of our lives afraid of the dark.
I offer the wisdom of Frederick Buechner (my writing role model):
Darkness is what most of our best contemporary literature is about.
Darkness fills the skies over our own cities no less than over the cities of our enemies.
And in our single lives,we know much about darkness too.
If we are people who pray, darkness is apt to be a lot of what our prayers are about.
If we are people who do not pray, it is apt to be darkness in one form or another that has stopped our
But the prophecy of Isaiah is that into this darkness a great light will shine, and of course the proclamation of the gospel, especially the wild and joy-drunk proclamation of Christmas, is that into this darkness there has
already shone a light to dazzle the world with its glory and its terror, for if there is a terror about darkness because we cannot see, there is also a terror about light because we can see.
There is a terror about light because much of what we see in the light about ourselves and our world we would rather not see, would rather not have be seen. The first thing that the angel said to the shepherds was, "Be not afraid," and he said it with the glory of the Lord shining round about them there in the fields, because there was terror as well as splendor in the light of the glory of the Lord.
In the darkness of a church, the candles burn. They hold the darkness back, just barely hold it back.
In the darkness of that Judean night, in the midst of nowhere, to parents who were nobody, the child was born,
and whoever it was that delivered him slapped his bare backside to start the breath going, and he cried out, as each one of us cried out, at the shock and strangeness of being born into the darkness of the world.
Then, as the Gospels picture it, all heaven broke loose.
The darkness was shattered like glass, and the glory flooded through with the light of a thousand suns.
A new star blazed forth where there had never been a star before,
and the air was filled with the bright wings of angels, the night sky came alive with the glittering armies of God, and a great hymn of victory rose up from them—"Glory to God in the highest"—and
strange kings arrived out of the East to lay kingly gifts
at the feet of this even
and more kingly
(From Secrets in the Dark, Page 67)
They were God. Reaching into a cage. To comfort an animal. Who does not understand. For healing to begin, for that broken people, bleeding humanity, to be saved... someone has to feel the sting.
I used to see it a lot on the first night of retreats. The week before the first Confirmation class. Kids who are afraid. Who have been raised to be indifferent by their parents and yet when Confirmation comes around suddenly mass is important. Confused. Abandoned. Convicted. Afraid. And people wonder why I don't spend more time shoving truth down their throats. Because they are scared of me. Church terrifies them and suddenly their parents are turning on them, their own family? Are they going to have to change who they were raised to be? Their time, their weekends, their personality - they can't be the same anymore? They hardly know who they are or want to be in the first place. Confirmation hits them like an earthquake. Of course my first response is to raise my hands in peace. Welcome them. If they accuse me of being fluffy, so be it. You don't understand. I would rather wave a white flag and lose them all in peace, than pull out a shooting gun and kill any hope of them coming into their faith. Honey, Jesus shows us, and wine on a hyssop. Bread is better than vinegar and chains. Never underestimate how much people can be afraid. Often, for little reason at all.
In the face of terror and impending unknown violence to come, uncertainty of our mortality, we praise Him singing, "Glory to God in the Highest and peace. Peace on earth to all men."
Peace to those who don't agree. Peace to those who want you to be different. Peace to those who don't see the whole picture but think they have the solution anyway. Peace to those who blunder. Peace to those who shout. Peace to those who arrest, assume, shoot down and terrorize. Peace in your heart, we pray for those, who reign in terror because they are just. That. Scared. Not out of uneducated ignorance, but because they are human. Just like you.
And Glory. Glory to God in the highest of heavens because He can see things we can't see and He can change things, He can touch hearts, in ways we can't. Glory to God who will have the final word. Glory to God who sees the last page and it. is. good. when it. is. finished.
Now isn't time to worry. To hate. To shoot back. It's time to pray for peace in their hearts before any more innocent people can be hurt and peace becomes someday impossible. Don't freak out, but there will be a final day on earth. And God is already there.
Matt Maher wrote the following song for his son, Connor, when he was afraid of the dark. We remember that works completed in darkness will be drowned out in light. Known, understood, and the scars burned away by God's infinitely greater love. In the face of hatred, we are called to compassion which is more powerful, everlasting, graceful than violence and retribution. Humans react and hit each other. God waits.
A week from today we'll celebrate the goodness of a Friday when Jesus Himself confessed, allowed, that the reign of darkness was beginning. Love has died, but hope has not. Forgiveness washes over this day, all days, of sin with the veil which is death and on the other side of the grey curtain, the valley of tears...