IS 50: 4-9 A
PS 69: 8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34
MT 26: 14- 25
"Were you There" is a notorious hymn sung throughout Christian churches during Holy Week. The lyrics repeat a series of questions, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?" When the choir at my parish began to sing this hymn on Palm , the haunting questions took on a new timbre of urgency. I do not think the hymn is intended to provide a hypothetical scenario for us. Rather, the chilling questions are meant to shake our soul and remind us that Jesus Christ -- the executed God -- continues to be crucified in our midst.
The idea of "the crucified people," is not wholly new to our theological vocabulary. Various liberation theologians, including Jon Sobrino and Ignacio Ellacuria, brought the term to the forefront of liberationist discourse with the following argument: Jesus Christ, God incarnate, identified himself with the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized during his ministry. Because of this, the Messiah was crucified; God was publicly executed. The task of our Christian discipleship today is defined in light of this fact. In Jesus the Liberator, Jon Sobrino writes, "Galilee is the setting of Jesus’ historical life, the place of the poor and the little ones. The poor of this world—the Galilee of today—are where we encounter the historical Jesus and where he is encountered as liberator. And this Galilee is also where the risen Christ who appears to his disciples will show himself as he really is, as the Jesus we have to follow and keep present in history: the historical Jesus, the man from Nazareth, the person who was merciful and faithful to his death on the cross, the perennial sacrament in this world of a liberator God" (Jesus the Liberator, 273).
In other words, the lives, sufferings, and death of the marginalized, the persecuted, and the oppressed illuminate the meaning of Christ's own life, suffering, and death (and vice versa). And yet I worry this statement has become too commonplace for those who exist in the confines of liberal academia. We write about it. We talk about it. We employ the term "the crucified people" in a way that groups the oppressed in an abstract category and renders it meaningless. But do we sit with this term? Do we let it break open the content of our spirituality? Are we brought to repent for how many times Christ continues to be crucified among us? In a recent segment of Catholic Women Preach, M. Shawn Copeland asks us, "If our God so suffers, is so exposed to the brutality and power of the world, what shall become of us? It is a daring and daunting theological prospect—for God and for us. For as we believe that our God suffers, we who confess, who worship, who love are called to a share in the suffering of Jesus, a share in the suffering of the peoples of our world."
Are you prepared to enter into the passion of Christ?
Were you there when they crucified God? Did you stand by idly? Or were you compelled to action?