This reflection was previously podcast on April 17, 2011.  MySpiritualAdvisor.com continues to experience technical difficulties this week.  We thank you for your patience and hope you are inspired by this offering for Palm/Passion Sunday 2011.

MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski asks the simple question of what it means to be friends.  In this reflection he examines the irony of our claim to be friends, Jesus’ example of friendship and the hard questions we need to ask ourselves about who we are and how we respond to God and each other. Please read Matthew 26:14-27:66

{mp3}2011 04 17 Palm Passion Sun{/mp3}

For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, April 17, 2011, Palm/Passion Sunday.
Please stop this audio and read Matthew 26:14-27:66.
“Friend” is a word that has taken on a new meaning.  Currently, I have 875 “friends” on Facebook.  Does that mean that these people are really “friends?”  Or, will they dump me as a “friend” the moment I disagree with them,  cause them to take a stand with me, or make them uncomfortable, or even offend them?  The question is, “What does it mean to be someone’s ‘friend’?”  Furthermore, as a Christian, what does it mean to be the friend of everyone in the community?
The question I am asking is very evident in the two Gospel readings for today.  The first reading, before we enter the church on Palm Sunday, has the people yelling, “Hosanna” to Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.  They are, in essence, proclaiming him King, as “son of David” the archetype of being king in Israel.   They are even asking him to “save them,” which is what ‘hosanna’ means.  In one proclamation, they are declaring their hope in Jesus and giving him a death sentence as a traitor to Rome.
The religious authorities see Jesus as a rival and want him dead.  Now, the political authorities see Jesus as a rival and share the sentiment.  Every king needs an army, he needs friends.  So, now that he is the rival of all, who will stand with Jesus as he goes on his unconventional campaign as a king?
Peter says, “I will go with you to the death,” but then he abandons him.  Judas, takes the money and then deals with the guilt.  The others flee.  Everyone acts in their own self preservational interest.  That is, except the Lord himself, who, follows the scripture from Philippians, and pours himself out.  He is the “suffering servant” of Isaiah who is rarely quoted by Matthew in the Passion narrative.
Can we really blame any of the followers of Jesus for falling away?  They did not fully understand that he was going to be raised from the dead, although this sequence of events begins in Matthew with the third warning to his disciples that he would be raised from the dead.  It would seem un-human for Peter to stand at the fire and respond to everyone, “Hah! Joke’s on you! He’ll be back in three days.”
Status in a community is at stake.  Reputation is at stake.  Employability is at stake.  All of these things can create a very stressful environment where we would be hard pressed to say that we wouldn’t take the safe way out: “I never knew the man!”
Over the last few years, I have often said what was said by a psychologist friend of mine, “the deadly sins are ‘deadly’ because they kill.”  The deadly sins are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.  They kill careers, marital relationships, friendships and, if we read the news, lives.  None of us are immune from having these.  If I could add another sin to those, it would be disassociation.  We often stand by as others are put to death.
My son, Caleb, recently visited Auschwitz while visiting Poland.  He discovered that there were 15 people who shared our last name, “Kurowski”, who were killed at Auschwitz.  It has caused me to think deeply about my possible connection with the deadly event.  If they were related to me, how many people stood by and watched them go to their death?  If they were related to me, how many of them were Christians who were caught hiding Jews?  I hope all of them.  What does it mean to be a “friend”, a “neighbor”, to us who were told to “love thy neighbor as thyself” by the Master of our Souls?
The divine irony about Palm/Passion Sunday, is that while everyone is abandoning the Christ, he is the lone actor in the whole event that is not acting in his own self interest.  In fact, he is being poured out.  He is being traumatized to sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemani as he demonstrates God’s friendship toward humanity. 
“I will lower myself,” says the Lord.  “I will allow my creation that I could kill at any moment, to kill me,” says the Lord. “Even though they will not stand up for me, die for me, or even admit they know me, I will go to the death to give them a path to eternal life with me forever and ever,” says the Lord through his actions.  In fact, the Bishops saw fit to move the passion narrative to this Sunday because they did not expect us to take personal time off to attend the services on Thursday and Friday.  We can’t even take time off to observe the days that our Lord died for us.
So, what does this do to us?  What is the result of this reflection?  I hope that it is gratitude.  I hope that it is amazement that the God of the universe would abandon his own power to lift us up.  I hope that we will sit in awe as we reflect on how amazing of a God we worship.  I hope we will think of our own friendships and that for which we stand.  I hope that we will create environments where people of faith can work together, stand together and speak honestly, frankly and lovingly without fear of the recriminations that come, similar to the recriminations that our Lord endured for us.
The question is what type of Resurrection will we allow the Lord to make in our own lives that are inspired by this ultimate sacrifice of pride of place by our God.  If we pour out our pride and allow God to reshape our intentions, our thoughts, our motives, then maybe, just maybe, being  a ‘friend’ will have a truer, deeper meaning than what Facebook can allow.  Amen?  Amen.
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