We are entering the height of Holy Week. Thursday is Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy means commandment and the observance of Maundy Thursday is in acknowledgement of the day Jesus was arrested. The next day, Good Friday, observes his death. I’ve been told it is called Good Friday because at one time it was called God Friday. I’ve also heard it is called Good Friday because in Jesus sacrificing himself, all sins were forgiven.
The reading by Brian McLaren, found here, is a contemporary telling of the story. A chilling one. It doesn’t sound unfamiliar to our modern ears. We see glimmers of our present day society reflected in the words. While traditionally most people think Jesus saying, “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do,” is directed at those who are torturing him, McLaren asks us to consider it from the perspective of the disciples – the silent and still disciples amidst the crowd.
As Unitarian Universalists we value social justice; putting our beliefs into action and living our values in this world is the embodiment of our faith. To imagine oneself, a disciple of faith, amidst a riot and saying nothing is disconcerting. Yet, we know for many the choice to speak out isn’t always available to each person. Our race, gender, sexuality, and other identities can make us vulnerable to violence when we stand up for ourselves or other marginalized people. However, I suspect most of us can also name a time when we could have spoken out with very little, if anything, to lose but did nothing.
And that is what troubles me as I read McLaren’s contemporary telling of the story of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. There’s a corner of my mind (and heart) that has a list of those times I kept my head down, I looked the other way, I walked a little faster past someone in need. Those times when I did not love my neighbor as myself. Those times when indeed, I refused to see my neighbor at all.
Jesus said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do,” but what about those times when we know full well? When we turn from our convictions to save time, to save money, to avoid discomfort. What about those times?
I don’t have any easy answers. I only know we must stay committed to lifelong faith development. We must continue to learn about anti-oppression and anti-racism, and we must continue to ask ourselves who are my neighbors and how do I love them?
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”