Palm Sunday – Cycle C
March 19/20, 2016
Isaiah 50: 4-7; Philippians 2: 6-11; Luke 22: 14- 23: 56
We must take a moment to pause here, after hearing the Passion of our Lord proclaimed. We cannot do much else but pause and reflect on the magnitude of what Jesus did for us that day, in obedience to God the Father. God the Father asked Jesus his divine Son to suffer and die for our sins, and Jesus did.
I mentioned in my homily several weeks ago that if you follow Jesus closely enough, and not just at a safe distance, you will experience the Cross in your life. If you follow Jesus closely, you will suffer in your life, suffer as Jesus suffered. So, how closely have you followed Jesus this Lent? How much did you risk? Where does he want you to be on Easter morning? How has God grasped you and led you? Will you accept or reject the Cross?
The theme of my Lent this year has been on the reality of the Cross in our world, the reality of suffering. Why do people suffer? Why would God let suffering be a part of the life of all Christians?
I have thought, “For nearly 34 years, I sat in an office and hour after hour people would come to me and talk about their suffering.” I have been and continue to be surrounded by suffering. No doubt, all of you have witnessed suffering also. We have seen it in the lives of those we love most. We have seen it in those with chronic and painful physical or emotional diseases, and we ask “Why? Why suffering? Is if really necessary, Lord?” Yes, it seems so, doesn’t it?
Perhaps suffering is necessary so that we will let go of all that, ultimately, doesn’t really matter. Perhaps suffering is necessary so we will allow ourselves to be grasped by God, grasped by Jesus, and allow him to lead us where he wants us to go. Perhaps it is necessary so we grasp on to that which is vitally important in life, our faith in Jesus Christ, and let go of all else in the end. Isn’t this what the saints have called “purification” and “conversion”?
Jesus showed us that there is meaning in our suffering. Jesus showed us that our suffering can lead to the Resurrection and new life. Jesus has shown us that our suffering transforms us into his image. This we take on faith, don’t we, when we suffer. It isn’t easy to believe.
In my 34 years as a therapist, I have seen how suffering for some people leads to a deeper faith. I have seen how for these people, their suffering inspires others. The suffering of the Good Thief brought him to faith and inspires us even today. We can also think of Mother Teresa who was surrounded by suffering every day and every day her faith grew stronger and was an inspiration to all of us. I can well imagine you could tell me of some family member who suffered well, and inspired you.
I have also seen how suffering leads others to a loss of faith and despair. They say, “There cannot be a God if there is this suffering.” Remember the other thief crucified with Jesus? His suffering only led him to ridicule Jesus’ faith in his Father, and the faith of the Good Thief. Remember Judas, who suffered terribly after he betrayed the Lord, but despaired and lost his faith.
It then comes down to us. It is up to us. How will we respond to suffering? What will we believe? Will suffering bring us closer to Jesus and each other, to the Resurrection and new life, or will it lead us to condemnation and death? Do we really believe in the Cross of Jesus and what he did for us, because if we do, we embrace the core of the Christian faith, and will come to understand suffering in our own lives. If we really don’t believe, we are lost.