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PASSION SUNDAY PARADOX
Palm Sunday of the Passion of Jesus Christ 2021
The newly released movie “Flannery” reminds the viewer how the famous Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor used paradox in her writings. She often employed grotesque imagery such as physical deformity to gain the attention of the reader and reveal her own constructive thoughts on issues such as suffering, racism and socioeconomic disparities. The protagonists in her writings included “outsiders, prophets and sinners seeking truth and redemption,” people like you and me.
Today is Palm Sunday when some Christians recall the Passion of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a paradoxical portrait of the incarnate God called to free humanity from sin and damnation. The story is compelling because it interlaces jubilation and death, suffering and hope. The same messianic hero who entered Jerusalem to the applause of Jews and non-Jews alike is, at once, the suffering servant who encounters torture and execution.
The story has endured for centuries because we are intrigued by two acknowledged but contradictory assumptions — Jesus dying at the hands of humanity to save humanity. Did he die to save us from ourselves and the collective sinfulness we are responsible for? Does this mean we, ourselves, are complicit in the passion and death of Jesus? Living in the midst of paradox  is characteristic of life in America. How do we respond to prevailing incongruities in this society?
We have plenty of grain in our silos but food insecurity is uncontrolled. Equal rights and voting rights are part of our Constitution but whole classes of citizens are deprived of these entitlements. The economy helps wealthy people get wealthier but unemployment numbers are on the rise. Lady Liberty says “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free ….” but worn out immigration laws and hate crimes stymie the ambitions of anyone who is not white or for whom English is not a first language.
This week is a festival of religious traditions for Jews, Christians and Hindus. These occasions help us recall our own mission, purpose, meaning, and identity. At their Seder meals Jews focus on the Passover narrative (Haggadah) to remember their ancestors’ interminable journey from slavery to freedom. Jews identify with this event that empowers them to continue the struggle for liberation from all forms of oppression.
For Christians our emphasis is on the passion and death of an innocent man who by his actions and words brought health to sick people, kindness to outcasts, and forgiveness to sinners. The Easter event gives people energy to carry out these acts of mercy today in the face of viruses, prejudices, war, hunger, homelessness and domestic violence.
For Hindus the feast of Holi celebrates the arrival of spring, the end of winter, the blossoming of love. The sources say it is a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships.
All three of these holidays fit well together as interfaith agents of memory, restitution, and action. The holy week story is not only about Jesus. It is also about humanity at large — our lives, good works, and bad deeds. It is about our experiences of suffering, dying and rising up again. How do we embrace this story as our own?
Think of the characters in the passion narrative who stood by Jesus during his final days. “These supporters offer us models for how we should live as Christian witnesses.”  Our relationships with God and one another are linked. One is weak without the other. Think of the disciples who abandoned Jesus. The connections we make are not only with family members and like minded friends. How we associate with others who are different from us is also important if this Holy Week is to have any meaning in the modern world.
Jesus lived to be in solidarity with all people no matter who they were. Like Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King Jr. that itinerant Jew died as a public figure who believed that the world could be a better place for all people. He did his part to make the realm of the Creator God a reality on earth. It is that same Spirit of Christ that impels us to act knowing that every choice we make has some kind of a cost.
 Irony, on the other hand, is the use of words to express something other than their literal intention.
 Jaime L. Waters, scripture scholar at DePaul University