Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday, 2011

Passion Gospel, St. Matthew 26:14 – 27:66

I wish I’d known him better. It seemed like there really was something there. More than most people thought, actually. And now, of course, it’s just a missed opportunity. Too bad the way that all worked out.

I mean, I guess it was inevitable. Big decisions way above our pay grade, anyway. But there was something. I’m pretty sure of that.

I remember hearing about the big stir he made over in those West Bank villages of the Galilee. At first I didn’t think too much about it. Out there in the countryside it seems like there’s a new snake-oil salesman every fifteen minutes. Folks aren’t very well educated out in the sticks, and there isn’t a very wide world-view. Maybe you’d say “backward.” But that just sets the stage for these kinds of situations. Prairie Populists and Tent Revival Evangelists. Snake handlers. All kinds of superstitions. Pull a rabbit out of a hat and they’ll follow you anywhere.

What I thought this was, anyway. So I didn’t think too much of it. Not at first. An article in the back page of the Saturday paper, in between the Police Blotter and the Home and Garden section. Human interest. How we city folk find it kind of amusing: what the country folk do.

But – I don’t know. At the same time, even from the first, he seemed a little different. Not quite the usual Elmer Gantry. At least he seemed different to me. And maybe that was it. People would tell stories about him, and you could hear something in their voices. You could see something in their faces.

Things are just so hard, in so many ways. Mountains in my life that when I was younger I was more optimistic about being to climb. And now I’m not so sure. And places where I thought: if I can get that far, then things will come together, make sense. I don’t know. Sometimes you get there—and, as Gertrude Stein said about her hometown of Oakland, California, “there is no there there.” Work and career, family, even all the comforting routines of faithful religious life.

And I can’t help but think back over some of the parts of the story I’m not too happy about. Things I’ve said, and done. Promises not kept. Responsibilities avoided. All too often lately I’m waking up in the middle of the night and wondering if it all isn’t like cotton candy: maybe sweet for a moment, but then it’s gone. I just don’t know. Maybe it’s just a midlife crisis thing. That’s what the wife says. Though I look at my friends, even strangers on the street sometimes, and I’m not sure I’m the only one feeling this way. Not by a long shot. Like we’re waiting for something we just don’t think is ever going to get here.

Anyway, I did see him. Just a glimpse, when he and his band of followers arrived in town for the holiday. You probably heard about it, what with all the fuss that happened over at the Temple. There were lots of people in the crowd, but I spotted him right away. Even at that distance. And I felt--well, I can’t really say what I felt. But when I saw him I thought again about the stories. Healings. The blind, the lame. Lepers. Crazy demon-possessed people that nobody else could even get close to. Wild stories about miraculous meals out in the fields. Stories about these tender moments. Women, children, foreigners. And about all these odd stories and sayings. How when you heard them, you’d start to think differently about things. Just this feeling that something unusual maybe was going on there, somehow. You hoped there was. At least, I did.

But—well, I guess that’s all water over the dam. No use crying over spilt milk. As my mother used to say, "it doesn't pay to get your hopes up."

Might have been interesting to know him better. Maybe there would have been something there. But I’m not crazy. The whole deal now is cops and soldiers and Temple authorities. Even the Romans. Really getting messy. Dangerous.

I thought across the crowds in that moment we almost made eye contact, if you know what I mean. Like he saw me looking at him. A moment of connection. And I was half thinking to make my way over there and join him. I really was.

But I suppose now it’s all for the best. If I had gone over there, along with him, who knows what might have happened. The way things turned out, it might have cost a lot. My job, my reputation. Who knows?

It could have been trouble. So I guess I dodged a bullet.

It’s all a sad story, no question about it. And, like I say, maybe a missed opportunity. But it would have been risky to get closer to him, no question about that. And, honestly, I’m not sure I’m really man enough to face it. So I guess it’s just better to leave well enough alone. I doubt I’d be able to do him any good anyway, at this point. It’s all just too far gone.

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