March 24 | Sixth Encounter: Acompañarse on the Journey




Sixth Encounter: Acompañarse on the Journey
Text: Mark 11:1-11; 14:3-9
Speaker: Bethany Davey

One year ago, I traveled with a group of fellow seminarians to Chiapas, Mexico.  Throughout our weeks in Mexico’s southernmost state, we met with leaders of  local, grassroots organizations and coalitions who understand their role and the role  of their group as one of accompaniment. We heard this Spanish word over and over  again: acompañarse. Though I fear English translations do not fully encapsulate  the concept’s significance, I understand acompañarse to mean accompany, join  with, travel alongside, be in bodied solidarity. Throughout Chiapas, we  encountered coalitions and individuals committed to accompanying migrant  travelers through the provision of the most basic human needs: food, clean water, a  safe place to rest on the journey. Chiapas’ proximity to the Guatemalan border  means that local communities accompany thousands of migrating people as they  attempt safe passage from South and Central America into Mexico and, perhaps  eventually, the United States. 


This week’s lectionary text invites us into a migratory moment, as Jesus and his  disciples travel into Jerusalem from Jericho. They near the city—the seat of  religious and political power—and we can imagine crowded anticipation, a town  pulsing with energy. It is among this swirling of humanity that Jesus enters, riding on a colt; people cover his pathway with their cloaks and palm fronds as he makes  his way through the crowd. Some biblical scholars suggest that both the use of the  colt and the act of processing held significance for participants and their Jewish  roots. The book of Zechariah in the Hebrew Bible references a humble king, riding  on a colt; Mark’s original audience would have been familiar with this reference,  lending meaning to Jesus’s mode of entry: is he the humble king? And because  royal and festive processions were customary in ancient Israel, rather than  understanding Palm Sunday as the initiation of a new act, we can understand this  procession—one occurring within a migratory journey—as a re-creation of  inherited ritual, a reenactment with renewed significance. 


Let us consider, alongside Jesus’s Palm Sunday narrative, a current procession  moment. In recent years, individuals and communities migrating north from  Central America have re-created another biblical procession: Jesus’s walk toward  execution. Long practiced in iterations of Latin American Roman Catholicism, the  via crucis, the Way of the Cross, reenacts the final days and moments of Jesus’s  life. One of my beloved professors, Dr. Francisco Pelaez-Diaz, writes about the  theological importance of these reenactments and their interconnection with Latin  American liberation theology of the 1970s, a theology that highlighted the realities  of the crucified peoples.1 Clergy members and theologians Oscar Romero and Ignacio Ellacuría developed the concept of the crucified peoples during a time in  which El Salvador and Central America were subsumed in abject poverty, horrific  violence and genocide. These realities were—and continue to be—in great part the direct result of United States involvement and policy. Romero and Ellacuría  recognized the crucified Christ in the Central American people who were  dismissed, disregarded and—with despairing frequency—killed in state-sanctioned  violence, just as Jesus of Nazareth was. Both Romero and Ellacuría died at the  hands of this same violence, insisting that those most denied by imperial power  were crucified Christs. Today, when migrating siblings recreate the Way of the  Cross, our siblings self-identify with the crucified Christ. To reenact the via crucis  protests ongoing oppression, demands safe passage and hopes for a reality beyond  the cross. Reenactments of the via crucis require those of us who witness these acts  to interrogate our own role in the death march: if these people are the crucified,  who is doing the crucifying? Am I? Are we?


In Christian tradition, Palm Sunday’s processional reenactment is celebratory, but it  is a celebration laden with tragic anticipation: before we gather next Sunday, our  liturgical calendar takes us from a moment of communal recognition—Hosanna!  Christ is King!—to a final meal, betrayal, court proceedings and a state-sanctioned  execution. Because Mark is likely written decades after Jesus’s death, Mark’s  original audience was likely all too familiar with executions in an era of shared  trauma, shared imperial oppression, shared risk of religious persecution and death.  Mark’s task is significant for the Christ followers of his day: he must make sense  of Jesus’s death, and he must accompany them in their shared suffering, a suffering  that is also Mark’s. 


The suffering of our immigrating siblings is a suffering that is shared. It is shared  with Jesus, as he walks toward his crucifixion. It is shared with Mark’s audience as  they risk the same fate. It is shared with a crucified Earth. It is the shared suffering  of a crucified people. To understand our fellow humans as Christ among us is to  share in the suffering, and to affirm the humanity our empires deny. It is to locate  the source of our shared despair and our shared salvation within the very people  who confront the imposed and moving borders of empire. 

This, this is to accompany. 

To recognize the crucified peoples is to defy the oppression that is, and instead  imagine what can be while living it into being. For Christians, this imagination is  in our traditioned bodies, our traditioned rituals: what is isn’t what has to be. This  is faith, this is the unveiling of revelation. When political powers explicitly deny  the very humanity of our migrating siblings, or pledge increasing funds toward  militant response and violent detention, who might Christ-followers be? What  might Christ-followers do?


I believe the Christian faith is one of accompaniment. On Palm Sunday, Jesus  enters Jerusalem accompanying and accompanied by his disciples. Jesus processes  into the city accompanying and accompanied by the people. Later in Mark, Jesus  accompanies and is accompanied by Simon, a man described as having leprosy,  meaning this is no small social feat that Jesus would enter his home. In this  socially-precarious setting, Jesus shares time with the woman who anoints his head  with precious oil. Though the disciples decry the extravagant expense of this oil when the money might have gone elsewhere, Mark describes Jesus as revering this  woman’s act. She has honored him as one might a king—anointing his head, and  not his feet2 —and has symbolically accompanied him into burial, reverently preparing his body for impending death. 


However. To accompany the crucified peoples, we must intercept them before Golgotha. “We must,” as liberation theologian Jon Sobrino says, “bring the crucified peoples  down from the cross.”3 Our Central American, migrating siblings demand this when they reenact the via crucis, the Way of the Cross. Our siblings’ crosses root  their suffering in state-sanctioned violence, and their crosses demand we join in  refusal, in protest, in making visible the realities that our empires simultaneously  cause and deny. Our siblings’ crosses demand that we consider our individual and  collective roles in these crucifixions—whether intentional, by association, or  simply because we live within this interconnected, global capitalist system. 


To accompany our crucified siblings is not only to take them down from their  crosses, it is to create realities in which crosses and crucifixion are non-existent. So  long as crucifixion exists, there will be crucified peoples, and we all share the risk of this fate: none of us are truly safe if any of us are in danger. None of us can fully  thrive if any of us can barely survive. We are interrelated, we are interwoven, our  humanity swirls together in symbiotic breath. Accompanying our migrating  siblings invites us to reconsider the Palestinian-Jewish Jesus’s entrance into  Jerusalem, after his migration journey into the heart of empirical power. 

For those of us bearing witness to the migratory processions of today, will we cry  Hosanna now and later this week, shout crucify? Will we offer our cloaks today  and later this week demand them back? Will we lay down our palm fronds this  morning, only to turn the other way in the garden, the courtroom, the site of  execution, washing our hands of our complicity? 

We must not. 

Instead, may our understandings and our actions embody a renewed imagination of  immigration, a renewed witness relationship with our siblings who migrate today.  May we lie down our cloaks and leave them there, soften the journey with our  palm fronds, honor the divine dignity of the Christs among and within us by  refusing crucifixion in all its forms. 

In Hebrew, Hosanna can be translated as savior, or to save. 

Our salvation lies in the fate of the crucified peoples. 

We must recognize Christ in the crucified peoples, we must bring the crucified  peoples down from the cross, over and over and over again. We must demand, and  labor together for, an existence in which no one is crucified, an existence in which there is no crucifixion. Therein lies our collective saving, therein lies our collective  hope for resurrection. 

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Blessed is the coming kin-dom of our ancestor David! 
Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 



1 Francisco Pelaez-Diaz, “Central American Migration as the Way of the Cross: Ignacio Ellacuría’s Notion of the ‘Crucified Peoples’ for Theological Reframing of the Migrant Experience,” Migration and Public Discourse in World Christianity, eds. Adogame, Afe, Barreto, Raimundo, da Rosa, Wanderley Pereira (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2019), 229-246.

2 I’m grateful to my professor, Rev. Dr. Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, for this reflection. Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, “The Suffering” (Lecture, Drew Theological School, Madison, New Jersey, March 14, 2024).

3 Jon Sobrino, Witnesses to the Kingdom: The Martyrs of El Salvador and the Crucified Peoples (New York: Orbis Books, 2003), 155-163.