Maundy Thursday, April 9
Human dignity is at the center of today’s passage. In it the author of the gospel according to Mathew narrates the way in which the political and religious Empires collectively attempt to rip away Jesus’ very human dignity. The Roman soldiers strip him of his clothes, place a crown of thorns on his head, spit on and mock him before leading Jesus to a most torturous death by crucifixion. While Jesus utters not a single word one can only imagine the suffering, pain, and embarrassment he feels as other children of God treat him in such an inhumane way.
Religious scholars and theologians agree that behind Jesus’ persecution was the Empire’s fear of losing its power and dominion. This man named Jesus knew how to draw crowds, people were dropping everything to follow him. Could he really be the ‘new’ king of the Jews? Had he and his followers come to overthrow the power that the Empire had worked so hard to build? They couldn’t take that risk so the only way to go was to strip Jesus of his human dignity and put him to death by means of a State-sanctioned execution.
Unfortunately, more than 2000 years later, political and religious Empires around the world continue to do the same. They continue to flex their muscles and exert their power in most unjust and inhumane ways. They do this by attempting to rip away the very human dignity of those who even remotely appear to threaten the power of the Empire.
An example of this is the way in which the current administration has enacted measures and continually promoted the inhumane treatment of our underdocumented, mainly Black and Brown siblings from across the Southern Border. Many of these are children. Some have been accompanied by adults but many others have made their way alone. As if the long torturous journey across the devil’s hot abode wasn’t enough, upon their arrival in the United States the government makes it a point to strip them of their very human dignity. Rather than caring for and providing them safety and security these children are thrown into cages like animals. Since 2017 alone, more than 5,400 children have been separated from their parents at the Southern border and placed into jail cells in for profit prison facilities funded by taxpayer dollars.
One might say, “I’m not involved in this” and maybe even think that such treatment of innocent children is a horrendous act. Nonetheless, as the case with Jesus there was a crowd watching. There were those who stood firmly on the side of their innocent teacher/Rabbi. However, there were others, many of whom were even followers of Jesus up until this point, who turned away from his suffering and stood on the side of Empire.
In this Lenten season we are engaging ways in which to become a beacon living in the light. As such it is an opportune time to examine our responses to human suffering, in this case of underdocumented children being caged like animals by the government. It’s not a question of partisan politics but about human dignity and the justice of God. How are we responding to this and other injustices? Are we part of the crowd that just idly stands and watches the injustice happen, or even worse condone it? Or are we responding with righteous indignation and outrage? Today we have the opportunity to heed to the invitation of God and become active participants in holy action that leads to the liberation of the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the marginalized. We have been equipped by grace through the Spirit to be co-workers with God in the building of the Kin-dom of love, equity, and justice for all. Ultimately, are we willing enough so that when we are asked, “What side are you on my sister/brother?” We are able to say with confidence, “Freedom side.”
Prayer: Holy God, today we examine and re-examine those things for which we stand and even those for which we don’t. May we always find the strength to stand on the side of love, equity, and justice for all your children. Help us to be committed to be a beacon living in the light and part of the movement that brings about wholeness in a fragmented world. Amen.
– C.J. Rodriguez