When I was a kid, Palm Sunday was one of my favorite holidays. Aside from getting palms—it’s always cool to get something exotic to take home like palms (hey, I’m from New England; palms are exotic)—the Gospel narrative was always a highpoint. At my childhood parish, St. John the Evangelist in Canton, Mass., everyone played their parts, voicing the chorus or crowd parts. It may still be true in other parishes for all I know, but in my current parish we don’t do that anymore. Probably because the missalettes are kept on a shelf in the entrance and not distributed throughout the pews.
Anyway, when we came to the part where the crowd would cry “Crucify him! Crucify him!” it was always so loud and I would get a shiver thinking about what it would have been like to be in that crowd in Pilate’s courtyard. And I think there’s a good catechetical reason for the congregation to, at the very least, voice that part. It should remind us who is really crucifying Christ. It’s not primarily the Jews or the Romans, but all of us. Were it not for our sin, Christ would not have been crucified. If we were all sinless and pure, there would be no need for a Redeemer and Savior. That cry should remind us of that.
I have read the some rabbis object to Mel Gibson’s movie about the Passion, complaining that it will perpetuate stereotypes of Jews as Christkillers. I don’t know of a single mainstream denomination that holds that view, so I don’t think there’s any worry of that. Even so, would they also demand that we strip the Gospels of the Passion narrative? What would they think of our crying out “Crucify him”? Perhaps what we have is a problem that too few Christians, never mind our Jewish brethren, understand our own roles in the Crucifixion. We don’t point fingers at anyone else, but point to ourselves first of all as the Christkillers, for by our sins we have crucified Him. Let’s not forget that.