Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of me…” (Luke 22:19)
Remembering brings the past into the present to shape the future. This week we remember the night Jesus was betrayed and what followed: trial, death sentence, crucifixion, death.
The gospel this week recounts brutal violence. This year we hear it while news of violence swirls around us: other humans crushed, bombed, fleeing. Overseas and close to home, we are not strangers to violence.
How does God respond to human violence? Not by turning a blind eye. Not by demanding an eye for an eye. God responds with total self-commitment: God is born into this violent world. That is the gospel we proclaim, that Jesus is not just another human being caught up in the clash of empires. That Jesus is God.
Jesus experiences the violence, challenges it by his actions and his words. Like the prophets before him, Jesus calls out injustice. Yet, seemingly, he fails: he dies a victim of violence.
But then the unexpected: God births something totally new out of this violent death. A resurrection, a new world, new life. Violence does not have the last word.
What does it mean to remember this story now, in our own violent world? There can be no glib responses: no shrugging our shoulders and awaiting justice after death for those crushed by violence today. There can equally no longer be a simple escalation of violence: punch me and I’ll punch back harder. There is instead the call: “Do this in remembrance of me.”
We remember how easy it is to betray a friend, to sacrifice the innocent, to mock the suffering. We hear again that Jesus remembers us: does not betray, or mock, or deny us. Remembering this we may become more clear-sighted about the choices we face, the cost and the consequences of these choices. Our choices will be shaped by our remembering.
This week’s gospel reminds us that God is fully engaged in our world. It reminds us that we too are on the way with a God who will not let violence have the last word.