Homily, Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord B
Most of us don’t have a problem with anything that Jesus did during His years of public ministry, the miracles that He worked, His proclamation of the kingdom of God, or the healings that He performed. We might just think that three years is an awfully short time for His ministry. This summer, I’m coming up on my third anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, and it feels like I’m still just getting started. So maybe you think that Jesus should have given Himself more time, but we really don’t have much of a problem with what Jesus did during His life. But when we’re honest with ourselves, all of us—at one time or another—have a problem with the way that Jesus chose to die, that He would choose a path of such intense suffering to redeem the world, that He would tell His disciples, He would tell each one of us, that we must follow Him, deny ourselves, take up our own cross, and follow Him. We have a problem with the fact that God chose to redeem all of creation through suffering and death.
We often find ourselves joining in with St. Peter, if we think back towards the middle of the Gospel accounts when Jesus gives His first prediction that He must be handed over, suffer, and die a shameful death, we say with Peter, “God forbid, Lord, that such things should happen to you.” When we or someone we love falls sick or receives a difficult diagnosis, when tragedy strikes, “God forbid that such things should happen to me or to my relatives. Why, O God, have you forsaken me?” We rebel against the Cross. When faced with difficulties or the slightest suffering, we begin immediately to question God’s love for us and the goodness of His plan for us.
This great mystery of suffering is what we enter into, as we begin Holy Week. If God redeemed the world from the wood of the Cross, then our suffering too can have meaning, dignity, even value, when joined to the Cross of Christ, when patiently endured, with love and trust in God’s plan for us. Suffering never becomes easy. There are no easy answers when tragedy strikes. Our human nature revolts against suffering and death. Even Jesus prayed that this cup might pass Him by, “yet not what I will, but what you will,” O heavenly Father. We take this week as an opportunity to simply stay with the mystery of the Cross, not to expect that we will be able to understand suffering or comprehend it, but not to run from it either. To stay with Mary and John at the foot of the Cross, asking for that same trust and perseverance, to see it through to the new life of the Resurrection.