Mark 11:1-10 or Jn 12:12-16
He emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel prize-winning peace activist, wrote that, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” Indifference, a lack of concern or a refusal to act in the face of injustice, is at the heart of human suffering. With this in mind, Saint Maximilian Kolbe (who was executed by the Nazis on August 14, 1941, after having offered his own life to save a condemned Jewish prisoner) described indifference as “the most deadly poison of our times.”
In most cases, our indifference is born of comfort or complacency and a sense that “I shouldn’t get involved” or “it isn’t my business.” Sadly, we can all-too-easily recognize how these attitudes allow injustice, abuse, and neglect to continue and increase in too many places in the world today.
However tempting it might be to pretend otherwise, there are things worth living for, suffering for, and even dying for. This is why the question of Cuban poet José Marti — “When others are weeping blood, what right do I have to weep tears?” — calls us to an even more essential question: “What is the value of a life that is lived without anything worth dying for?”
The inconvenience, discomfort, sadness, and pain we may feel if we open our hearts and pay attention to what is happening in and to the world around us are the only real antidote to indifference, because those feelings should call us to action. Palm Sunday and Holy Week reveal for us a God who, in Jesus, was anything but indifferent: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave … he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7a, 8).
Although Palm Sunday’s ability to confront and confound our indifference can be startling and even frightening, the real grace of this celebration is in the opportunity it provides for us to renew our commitment to life in Christ. The days of Holy Week challenge us to envision a life in which — rather than simply limping along from “mistake” to “mistake” — we take responsibility for our indifference, our self-preference, and our sins to become free to grow in love and our care about what we do to others, to creation, and to our own bodies, psyches, and souls.
In the end, living the mystery of the Cross leaves no room for indifference because, as Saint Cyril of Alexandria observed, “Christ’s example of courage in God’s service will be of great profit for us, for only by putting the love of God before our earthly life and being prepared when occasion demands to fight zealously for the truth, can we attain the supreme blessing of perfect union with God” (Commentary on John, 12.19).
Bro. Silas Henderson, SDS
A Prayer for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)