At the March for Our Lives, Emma Gonzalez spoke for about two minutes, mostly naming the students and teachers who were shot and killed in her Florida high school on February 14. Then she went silent. Four minutes later she spoke again: “Since the time I came out here it has been six minutes and 20 seconds…” — the length of time the gunman shot his weapon that day.
Emma’s silence was unbearable for the crowd. They tried to end it with chants of “never again” or “we’re with you Emma.” To no avail.
The earliest Easter narrative is about silence, beginning with the horror of the Good Friday’s violence and continuing to an empty tomb. Like the crowd in Washington, we cannot bear the silence. We try to end it with a fairy tale suitable for the youngest of children complete with flowers, bunnies and colorful eggs. To no avail. The Good Friday violence continues to be suffered by so many around the world.
Like Emma’s silence, the liturgical silences we begin Palm Sunday and Good Friday enable us to receive and hear the testimony of the victims of violence in its many forms. Their testimony, their cries, are not easy to listen to. The silence in which they emerge is not easy to bear. But unless we learn to bear those silences, it is unlikely we will find the courage to change anything.
This is not to say that we should not, on an Easter Sunday, be glad, make noise and sing songs. But if we do, let it not be because “the strife is o’er.” Let it be because we are willing to bear the silence and receive its testimonies. Let it be because we know the strife is not over, and because we are resolved to do what it takes to bring the victory of real change.