Bless me, Father , for I am about to draw a connection between Your Son’s Passion-the story of his suffering and death read in Catholic and other churches this Sunday, Palm Sunday -and a “reality” TV show.
No, not Fear Factor, although it wouldn’t be hard to make a case for it. No, the show is Survivor, and the connection is to Roger , a guy who was recently cast off the island at the hands of a few of his so-called “friends” and several of those whom he irritated immensely.
The player is played
Roger was a man’s man. A leader. He worked tirelessly to accomplish the goals of the tribe, and he pushed those who were on his side pretty hard. Sometimes too hard, and that may have been his undoing.
The interesting thing about Roger was that he was totally “played” by those who wanted him gone. He had no idea of the behind-the-scenes discussions concerning his future, the contempt that he conjured in the minds of others, and that his end was near, and well-choreographed. In fact, he thought his place and his future were completely secure, and when his sentence was announced, it hit him and those who supported him, completely by surprise. Even in his parting comments, he stated that he wasn’t “outplayed or outwitted, just outlasted.” Right through the bitter end, he had no idea that his destiny was in the hands of others.
Like Roger, Jesus, too, was cast off by people from His own tribe. But unlike Roger, He knew what was going on around Him. He knew His moment was at hand. He knew that His short-lived triumphant entry into Jerusalem was the beginning of His end. To those around Him, it looked like He was going to survive his fate, and take His mission to the next level. But Jesus knew better.
At the time, it looked like Jesus was also played by those near Him, and others who had formed a strong alliance. But the amazing thing was that it only looked like He was manipulated by events outside his control that brought about His demise. The fact was He knew where He was headed, and He willingly entered into it. Fearlessly though not without feeling. And publicly, though probably not without sensing the irony of being lauded with Hosannas one moment and knowing you will be spat on and tortured the next. Still, He went along with the will of the people, his eye on the ultimate goal of new life for all.
The pain of betrayal
It’s one thing to have fate sneak up on you, only to learn that you’re the last to realize the impact of events swirling around you. But the fact was that Jesus knew where the course of events was leading, and His willing choice to embrace it exemplifies His unparalleled restraint.
When you don’t know you’re being manipulated, it doesn’t hurt until you are betrayed and you realize what is happening. Then it hurts a lot, to which Roger from Survivor can attest. But Jesus had to bear the pain of betrayal more deeply, since he knew from the beginning what would occur (not to mention that he was tortured and crucified on top of it all). That knowledge colored everything, and yet he was able to fully experience each triumphant and seemingly unbearable moment.
Readings for Palm Sunday:
Mark 11:1-10 for palm procession