PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION – YEAR C
The most dramatic pictures in the news this past week came from scientists who, for the first time, managed to capture a view of a black hole. It is in the heart of Galaxy Messier 87. Accompanying background stories of the photo seemed to burst with statistics that boggle the mind. One story even noted that the awesome qualities of a black hole challenged Einstein, himself, who could hardly bring himself to accept the evidence that space and time come to an end and vanish in a dark hole. “We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said about this hole that is several billion times more massive than the sun. Headlines were no less dramatic than the photos: “Darkness Visible.” “Peering Into Light’s Graveyard.”
What I found to be almost as interesting as the photo of the black hole is the name that has been proposed for it: Powehi. That is a word in the Hawaiian language meaning, “embellished dark source of unending creation.”
Today we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Holy City Jerusalem. But the liturgy very quickly moves us onward to Calvary. St. Luke’s remarks, “It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. Make no mistake about it, we are now literally peering into light’s graveyard. As Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” and breathes his last, he is plunging down into the deepest, darkest, most terrifying dark hole of all. It is a dark hole of death; and since the days of Adam and Eve, no one had ever escaped from it. At that very moment, the veil of the temple, the veil that hid the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of the Almighty, from the eyes of all except the high priest, was rent down the middle and cast aside. Bystanders were seeing what they thought was unseeable. Darkness was visible. As Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, the women from Galilee were peering into light’s graveyard.
But those same women were witnessing Powehi and it would become evident early on the morning after the sabbath. The tomb that they would enter had become – to their amazement and the amazement of the apostles – the embellished dark source of unending creation. Jesus has entered that black whole and emerged to be the first-born of the dead, the agent of the new creation, the source of eternal life to all who believe in him.
We all come across black holes in the course of our life’s journey, some of them truly dark and fearsome and seemingly all-encompassing, absorbing and snuffing out all light from our lives until – at long last – we get pulled down into the dark hole of the tomb. The events of this week, Holy Week, remind us that all of them bear the label Powehi. Jesus has changed everything.