Br. Will Owen, n/OHC
Palm Sunday - Sunday, March 20, 2016
The Liturgy of the Palms
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
The Liturgy of the Word
|Br. Will preaching on the Passion|
As I was preparing this sermon, I found myself at a loss for words or images to speak of the Passion. I’ve had that struggle, I think, because before and beyond all images of the Cross, the Cross is the shattering of images. And before and beyond all language about the Cross, the Cross is the silencing of language. To stand before the Cross and gaze on the crucified body of Our Lord is to seek annihilation—the burning away of all our assumptions and stories about ourselves, God, and the world in which we live. To pray the Cross is to consent to God’s desire to empty us entirely so that we may be filled with her life.
Dorothee Sölle, a German liberation theologian, says that we need “to learn to be empty in a world of surplus.” We need to learn to be empty in a world of surplus. What an elegant way of stating the dilemma we face as we encounter Christ’s Passion. How many of us pray this way, pray to be emptied?
I know that there is not a person in this room who does not have, encoded in their body, the effects of trauma, small or large T trauma. To live life and to love other people means to be hurt. These traumas are the gateway to emptiness. They are signposts pointing to the road that leads to the Cross, and, therefore, to Life. When these pains tap at our consciousness, we have a choice. We can choose to fill ourselves—really overstuff ourselves, which is a kind of numbing—with pills, or a drink, or food, or whatever it is that we turn to to numb the pain. Or we can choose the way of the Cross, which is the way of emptiness. We can allow God to move us deeper into our pain, to guide us into a deeper encounter with our trauma.
When we make this second choice, we find something astonishing. When we move further and further down the road of our traumas, we find Christ there, on the Cross, crucified on the Golgotha of our broken hearts, our broken lives. And when we draw even closer to Christ on the Cross in our hearts, there we are, too, hidden away in Christ’s own broken heart. When we draw that close to Christ on the Cross, we find a piece of ourselves that was never harmed, never touched by all the hurts that have afflicted us. There is a part of us that was never wounded, that remained whole and in union with God, hidden away, shielded in Christ’s heart as he hangs upon the Cross in the center of our broken, battered lives.
This Holy Week, I leave us all with the invitation to allow God to empty us out, so that we become a kind of new-hewn tomb in which to lay the body of our crucified Lord, which is our own body and the body of the world we live in. And from that place of emptiness, we will, in God’s time, know the power of her Resurrection.