Do We Have Blood on Our Hands?

On the Sundays of Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by New Ways Ministry staff members. The liturgical readings for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion are: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; and Luke 22:14-23:56. You can access the texts of these readings by clicking here.

“What evil has this man done?”  An exasperated Pontius Pilate asked the crowd this question after he judged that Jesus was guilty of no crime.  But, for their own reasons, the people insisted on violence; Pilate capitulated and sentenced Jesus — an innocent man — to die.  In equal parts, both Pilate and the mob had blood on their hands for Jesus’ death.  
 
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“Passion of Matthew Shepard” by Rev. William Hart McNichols, a Catholic priest-artist, who dedicated this icon to the memory of LGBT youth who commit suicide, and to the countless others who are injured or murdered.

“What evil has this man done?”  Pilate’s words echo in my mind as I remember Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was beaten, tortured, and left to die on a lonely country road in Wyoming in 1998.  I remember the television news that showed the wooden fence where Matthew spent his last hours, alone and in pain.  

I remember hearing the eyewitness testimony that described Matthew’s face as caked in blood, except for where his tears washed the skin clean.  And I remember that Matthew’s murder was the first time that I (as a naive fifteen-year old) realized lesbian and gay people are sometimes hurt or killed due to their sexual orientation.  
 
Many years have passed since Matthew Shepard’s death but, unfortunately, LGBT people are still victims of discrimination and violence.  Every year, the Passion narrative of Palm Sunday should remind us that innocent people still die today and that, while we are not responsible for violence committed by others, we are responsible for creating the culture in which we all live.  
Are we contributing to a culture where homophobia can flourish?  Like the mob surrounding Jesus, do we allow voices that call for blood and violence to remain unchallenged?  Or are we building a culture that values every person and embraces genuine diversity?  Do we share our stories of love so that such love can abound and multiply in our midst?
As we enter the holiest week of our year, I pray that we hold near to us these stories of violence and death — of Jesus, of Matthew Shepard, of LGBT people in our own time and place — and that we will be inspired to cultivate lives of love and hope so that all God’s children will be accepted and welcomed as they are.   
–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry

6 thoughts on “Do We Have Blood on Our Hands?

  1. Thomas March 20, 2016 / 7:09 am

    Well said.

  2. Carlos Florido March 20, 2016 / 7:58 am

    A must read!

  3. Paula Mattras March 20, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    What a beautiful and insightful interpretation – so on the mark. We live in a country where each one of us is privileged to freely love and accept “all our children.” We need to take advantage of that to set an example for others who fear showing such acceptance. “Love is patient…..love is kind.” God is love.

  4. Will March 22, 2016 / 3:46 am

    This has remained with me after reading it.

    It was strongly underlined when I read about a recent pastoral letter from the Catholic Bishops of Malawi calling for the imprisonment of gay people in Malawi. The laws criminalising consensual homosexuality have been suspended and the Bishops are protesting the suspension.

    I also remember reading that while Matthew Shepherd lay dying in a hospital bed, a noisy crowd of anti-gay Evangelical Christians protested against homosexuality outside and they continued to protest during the trial of his killers. Who would the Malawi Catholic Bishops have supported with their pastoral letter?

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