Archive for the ‘RCIA’ Category

Suffering Servants- All of Us

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

It’s such a contrast. the two Gospels we heard this morning.   

First, Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph.  They had all heard about the raising of Lazarus and his other miracles.  And so, Jesus is heralded by a crowd proclaiming: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”.   

But just a little while later, things have changed.  Now the crowd shouts “crucify him” over and over again.  And Jesus is subjected to the most cruel and inhumane treatment.  He is sentenced to death on a cross.  What happened?   

Well, make absolutely no mistake about it, Satan was alive and active in the world sewing seeds of descension; orchestrating evil deeds; waiting and lurking for any opportunity to make things worse; looking to corrupt those who are vulnerable; and playing on pride, greed, and all the other sins of the heart.   

What happened is really very simple.  The people of Jerusalem lacked real Faith.  They believed in a God who rewarded them for keeping the law, but their faith was weak and vulnerable. They were happy to praise Jesus as long as he worked miracles and fed them abundantly. They also expected this miracle worker to get rid of the Romans for them.

But when Jesus came, he preached in the temple.  He preached things the authorities didn’t want to hear.  And when he attacked the motives and methods of their leaders; when Jesus offered a new and better way, one that would require them to change; and when it became clear he wasn’t challenging the Romans; well, then the worst qualities of human nature took over.   

Jesus did not follow the detailed p’s and q’s of the law.  He even drove money changers out of the temple, ridiculing their motivation to make money.  You have to wonder what the common folk felt when they saw this.  Because rather than “getting right” with the Lord in a simple pigeon or dove offering, they were being told that it takes more than that; it takes a conversion of the heart; an offering that is a real sacrifice; not just some token offering.   

So, Jesus called into question the motives of both the leaders and the people, and even identified their hypocrisies in the process.  Their self-image was hurt; they fell victim to pride.  I can hear it now: “I’m not as bad as all that”.  And the miracles he worked just made the matters worse, diminishing the leader’s reputation even more.  The Jewish authorities became jealous and angry.  They were ready to do anything to get rid of this “imposter”.   

And then there was Judas.  Jesus was not bringing a revolution to bear against Roman rule as Judas hoped he would do.  Jesus’ revolution meant changing the heart not the government.  And so, Judas was upset and impatient with Jesus and his greed for money and control took over, so he betrayed Jesus.   

And so, Satan had a welcome audience- vulnerable people who were so taken with their own self-interests that they would do anything to get rid of Jesus.  They wanted this voice of conscience out of the way.  And Satan was all to ready to whip them into a frenzy.   

Our readings today talk about suffering in general.  Isaiah’s prophecy addressed the suffering of the entire Jewish people during the Babylonian exile.  But it also predicted the sufferings of Jesus.   

Our second reading is a first century hymn incorporated by St,. Paul into one of his epistles.  It summarizes Jesus sacrifice for all of us quite well.  Here is God made man, humbling himself in the most extraordinary way.  A totally innocent man who gives freely of his own life to save all of us and offer us a resurrected life in the kingdom of God.   

And so, God highly exalted Jesus- and that is what Christianity is all about.  We are to follow in the footsteps of this God-made Man so we too can share in everlasting life and joy.   

But wait a minute; there is a catch.  It seems that all of us need to share in the sufferings of Christ.  Yes, all of us are given a life of challenges where we have to face choices- choices between comfort and suffering; choices between right and wrong; choices between standing up for what is right  or taking an easier more comfortable road; choices between doing things in the light of day or doing them in the deceptive cover of night.  All of us are confronted with these types of choices.  Only the strength of our faith and the graces that come with it can sustain us in these situations.   

The Gospel of the passion is uncomfortable for us to hear.  It is even more uncomfortable when it is effectively dramatized, as it was in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”.  And there are even more challenging descriptions of the Passion than that which we can voluntarily look at, like “The 24 hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by Luisa Picareta, which is an hour by hour chronicle of the horror of the passion.  The purpose of these vivid descriptions is for us to appreciate just what Jesus Christ did for us.  It was not just physical suffering, but intense mental and spiritual suffering as well- more suffering than any of us could possibly bear. 

And that is the point.  God was willing to send His son to do that for each and every one of us.  We surely can endure the sufferings that each of us has been called to endure for the sake of our Faith.   

Palm Sunday and Holy Week are that time each year when each of us is called to reflect on all of this.  And to make our commitment to believe- really believe.  And really believing means putting your faith into action.   

All of you here are making that choice on Easter Sunday.  God bless you all and your Faith.