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Reflections on Jesus’ Passion, Covenant, Easter and Justice

By Sylvia Knight

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many….Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial…” (Mark 14:24, 37)

From April 14 to 21 we observe and remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, His plea for his friends to pray with him in the Garden, His trial and death at the hands of religious and secular authorities, and his resurrection. We remember that authorities have plotted to kill Jesus because of his ways of challenging religious and societal norms of his day. During the Last Supper He knows his end is near and asks his friends to share bread and wine with Him in the covenant.

What was that covenant to which Jesus called them?

The last seven years as ally of Migrant Justice have deeply altered my perspective on my life and of life in Vermont and beyond for people of color and immigrants from Mexico and Central America. As an ally of Justice for All VT, my understanding of life for people of color in Vermont has been altered significantly. Chronic fear of being arrested or even killed in the course of everyday life deeply affects one’s health and life-ways. PTSD after arrests and incarceration is a painful reality for many people in our land. I am grateful for our creative and courageous prophets and doers of liberation.

As I read the Passion narratives I sense the fear taking hold in the hearts of Jesus’ disciples. Yes, Jesus is also afraid, and asks his disciples to pray with him as he prays through his anguish, for the courage, strength and will to accept his fate. But they fall asleep. Jesus asks them why they are sleeping. Not even Jesus’ disciples could stay awake and alert for the coming crisis.

Do we hear Jesus’ plea for alertness and accompaniment in the face of crisis?

Working on human rights issues with colleagues in Migrant Justice and Justice for All has highlighted the corrosive injustices perpetrated against the poor and people of color in this nation: long incarcerations of many for lack of bail before any conviction; dehumanizing prison conditions; racial inequities in law enforcement; incarceration of 52,000 immigrants per day in the federal budget (1); federal policy of denying hearings before impartial judges for immigrant detainees (2); failure of police to protect a family from racial harassment in Vermont; recent harassment by Secret Service of a teenager in Burlington; and an insidious law passed in 1996 that severely erodes habeas corpus, the basis of justice and freedom in America (3). Habeas corpus provides prisoners with the legal right to bring their case before an impartial judge for review. This principle is a basic defense against tyranny.

What is the new covenant to which Jesus calls us now? How do we express solidarity with neighbors whose dignity is insulted in a million ways?

What is the new covenant to which Jesus calls us now? How do we express solidarity with neighbors whose dignity is insulted in a million ways? Will the Church stay “woke” to the threats against democracy and justice for all? I feel that our faith in Jesus’ Resurrection is not only for ourselves individually but for profound liberation of all in his Kin-dom of love, justice, dignity and hope for all.

Lord Jesus, draw us together as your disciples, out of fear into Easter courage, into solidarity with those who are oppressed, to dismantle systems of racism, injustice, oppression and cruelty. Incite us to live into your Kin-dom where all know you and enjoy our God-given dignity in full liberation. Amen.

(1) Department of Homeland Security Budget in Brief, FY2019, p.36
(2) Supreme Court Ruling Means Immigrants Could Continue To Be Detained Indefinitely. NPR, February 27, 2018.
(3) Adelman, Lynn. Who Killed Habeas Corpus? Dissent. Winter 2018

Sylvia Knight is a member of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington and serves on the Steering Committee for the Vermont Freedom Bail Fund.

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