Holy Week reflections by Jorge Juan Rodriguez V
(this post was originally published at HolyWeekofResistance.net)
For many Christian communities in this Empire called the United States, Holy Week has been largely commercialized, commodified and sanitized. Profound themes present in Holy Week of state violence, murder without recourse of marginalized individuals and communities, and the subverting of oppression through revolutionary acts have been diluted for the comfort of the masses and the maintenance of power.
On Palm Sunday, many churches participate in turning palm leaves into crosses to signify how Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem initiated his road to crucifixion.
Yet in this craft, little word will be given about why this triumphant entry led to crucifixion. It wasn’t just any people who praised Jesus as he rode in on a colt. It was the poor, the marginalized, those he had been healing, caring for, and preaching to for three years. This initiated a road to crucifixion because when those in power—Pastors, Law Enforcement, Governors, Presidents—saw that they were losing control of the masses, not gaining that praise, they knew they needed to do something about this Jesus of the poor. Yet Palm Sunday continues to be consumed with crafts to distract us from the poor and suffering around our churches and communities.
On Holy Thursday, many churches come together over a meal to remember Jesus’ last supper.
Yet while enjoying food, no mention is made about why Jesus knew this was his last meal. For three years Jesus had been prophetically denouncing religious authorities and politicians, calling them hypocrites, white washed tombs, broods of vipers, all because in their position of power they kept killing the poor, killing the marginalized, and as opposed to bringing life they brought death and protected the killers. Jesus knew that standing against authority and power for the cause of justice was going to get him killed, that’s why he knew this was his last supper. Yet on Holy Thursday we relish in our dinners so we don’t have to think about the prophetic work we haven’t done that doesn’t make this dinner our last.
On Good Friday, many churches point to a cross and say that Jesus died for us
as we sit in pews, wearing black, singing hymns that regurgitate this message. Yet as our voices fill the room we conveniently forget that we are gathered in worship of an individual whose bones were broken, flesh torn, blood shed, and who literally suffocated slowly as water from his body filled his lungs all because he opposed those in power who kept establishing laws, policies, and beliefs that marginalized those with darker skin, those who had different abilities, women, sexual minorities, those without citizenship, those of a different ethnicity, and he lived his life to oppose that system. This gruesome murder, approved by the State of Jesus’ time, was carried out because he who questioned power and fought for equality, justice, and unity had to be silenced. Yet churches continue to be filled on Good Friday with empty voices so as to not be filled with the message of fighting injustice amidst the possible consequences.
On Easter Sunday, many churches search for eggs to represent an empty tomb which a resurrected savior left behind.
Yet while we run in search of eggs we will be too distracted to stop for a moment and recognize how revolutionary the resurrection was. Its impact was not that an individual defied death, left a tomb empty, and appeared to disciples: its impact is that the State tried to torture and murder an individual who had continuously denounced their injustice, who stood alongside those the State tried to oppress, and not even the greatest form of punishment could keep down this prophetic call to justice. Instead of resurrection Sunday, Easter should be called Revolution Sunday because in coming back to life Jesus posed the biggest threat to power and authority that has ever occurred in history, all for the sake of the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. It was because of this revolutionary resurrection that individuals in the first century began to unify and worship this Jesus and it was because of how powerfully the resurrection opposed those unjust authorities that Jesus’ followers were persecuted and killed. Yet every Easter Sunday we search for eggs instead of empty tombs as we resurrect in revolution against unjust systems and authorities.
Every 28 hours police murder a Black body without any consequence for the killer
and yet we who celebrate Palm Sunday continue talking about palms instead of protest. Along the United States-Mexico border countless children are detained, women raped, and individuals killed by border patrol without any record of injustice and yet those of us who celebrate the Last Supper continue raising our forks instead of our fists. In the last four years our government has launched more drone strikes than ever in the history of this country, killing hundreds of innocents, and yet those of us who celebrate Good Friday continue singing hymns instead of halting traffic on the streets. Over the last two years progress achieved on voting rights has been almost completely repealed and yet those of us who celebrate Easter continue searching for eggs instead of equality. We of faith cannot continue to be distracted by the injustice that occurs around us and cater the message of Holy Week to serve of our comfortable living.
For this reason, we at Union Theological Seminary, congregations in the city of New York, and communities across the country are working together to Reclaim Holy Week from the sanitized version of comfort that has been perpetuated to diminish and dismiss revolutionary action against unjust systems. Through demonstrations, media engagement, and community building we are dedicating this entire week to use the message of the cross as a reminder that crucifixions continue to occur today under this Empire called the United States. We invite individuals to participate in their communities and seek more information about direct action through our website and publications at www.reclaimholyweek.com. Our churches, communities, and homes need resurrection—a revolutionary uprising against injustice, for our communal good, equality, and mutuality. May we reclaim holy week by opposing authorities of oppression through revolutionary resurrection.
About the Writer: Jorge Juan Rodriguez V is the son of two Puerto Rican migrants who came to the United States months before he was born. After graduating summa cum laude from Gordon College, receiving a Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies and Christian Social Thought, Jorge moved to New York City to attend Union Theological Seminary where he is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Theology. Jorge’s frequently gives talks and presentations on the intersections of theology and the public sphere focusing especially on topics of race/ethnicity, intersectionality, and education. You can follow him on twitter at @JJRodV.