You just heard the retelling of the Passion of the Lord according to Mark – the story of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ – a Passion that we believe was undertaken for us and for our salvation from sin and death. We sit here, almost 2,000 years later, in a world still afflicted with sin, violence, suffering, cancer, injustice, war, oppression, hunger, and all sorts of other evils. It would not be an unfair question for anyone dealing with these things to ask, “So what?”
What power does this story have in our lives anymore? Does it matter to you? Is that sacrifice that Jesus offered meaningful and effective for you – for your family – for your friends – for our world? This is a serious question that every disciple needs to consider, and I am posing it again here.
I read an article this past week about the declining religiosity. In many countries, young people (age 16-29) are stating that they have “no religion,” and Christianity has declined to tiny percentages in almost all of the countries. The article concluded that in twenty to thirty years, mainstream churches (including our own) will be smaller, but the few people left will be highly committed. Does that sound familiar? It should. It is the experience of so many of our young people – our family members, our friends, our neighbors. It is an existential “So what” for us all.
Are we that smaller church? Are we the “highly committed?” If so, then “So what?” What are we to do with this Passion of Jesus Christ? What are we to say of the salvation that He won for us? To whom will we speak of it?
Stories like that article – even the lived experience of seeing so many of our family and friends leaving or simply not caring about the Church – can, and should, cause us alarm. However, we are not helpless in this. The Prophet Isaiah says today, “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” Do not let others’ weariness bring you down or dampen your hope! The journey of Holy Week is one that demands endurance and faith, because we already know how this story ends. We know that the tale does not end in a tomb.
In the most recent Star Wars film, the tiny, decimated band of resistance fighters had to deal with the sad picture of no one else caring about withstanding evil. However, they continued because they knew what they believed in. They knew that they were “the spark that would ignite the fire that would burn down the First Order.” And they hoped.
Brothers and sisters, we have been given Hope by God. We are that Spark now in a world that seems to be going dark with apathy and faithlessness. Jesus gave all He had and all He was for you and me – and all of them. His Spark lives in us all. Now, so what?