By Sister Caryn Crook

Holy Week is such a high point for the Catholic Church. During this sacred celebration, we get a glimpse of the society in which Jesus lived, died and was raised from the dead. The Easter story can also shed light on societal issues in our nation and throughout our world and what our response must be to further the reign of God.

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Crowds sang hosanna and came to see him, to touch him, to praise him. In just five days, the crowds turned from friend to foe. Instead of shouting “hosanna,” they shouted “crucify him.” How do so many people change their minds so quickly? The Jewish leaders used sound bites to change people’s opinions of Jesus. They told the truth, well a bit of the truth, and then distorted it for their own needs. They told the crowds “He said he was God. He said he will destroy the temple. He breaks Sabbath.” Jewish leaders embellished and distorted what Jesus said and did for their own good, not the good of their people.

Our media works the same way. Division sells papers, advertisements, radio programs, and 24-hour news stations. Each one says that they have the truth, but they give us sound bites that feed into our fears and polarize our country. They pit police against citizens, jobs against the environment, rich against the poor. If a story or sound bite seems too one-sided, too simple, it may not be true. These false sound bites divide our nation and our church. When feelings of fear and anger bubble up within us over a sound bite, we must step back, pray, research it, and find out the other side of the story. Otherwise, we are no better than the crowds at the crucifixion. When we are easily swayed by rumors and popular opinion, it only turns us away from God and we become an obstacle for the coming of God’s kingdom.

During the new presidential administration’s first 100 days, we have been bombarded with sound bites and claims of alternative facts and false news. This causes division, distrust, harm to people’s reputations, and polarizes the country rather than giving us solutions to the issues facing America today. We must remember to follow the teachings of Christ Jesus and to be weary of camouflaged hate that feeds our fears and divides us instead of unites us. The crowds on Palm Sunday let little information and their fear and ignorance turn them away from God, towards darkness. After Jesus’ resurrection, some realized the errors of their ways, turned toward God, and joined the disciples. May God give us the graces to yearn for the whole truth, which brings unity, peace, and hope, and helps to usher in the kingdom of God.