Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Passion and Me

Jesus' Entry into Jerusalem
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 1:15-47

As we come once again to this opening of the most holy week of the year, the entire community is invited to take part in the proclamation of the Gospel – that beautiful narrative of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem up until His death and burial. With this we all truly enter into Holy Week. We are not simply bystanders; we are not men and women simply reflecting on an historical event that unfolded nearly 2000 years ago. We are there among the people of Jerusalem. With our palms today we welcome the King of Glory into our presence. And as happens so often in our lives, we quickly turn away from Our Lord and begin to look to ourselves and our own desires. Today we join the Jews of 2000 years ago in crying out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” We cry out only twice, but sure we intend it many more. And it’s not them. It’s us. It’s me and it’s you.

As we watch His Passion unfold, we are blind to the reality of what is truly taking place before our very eyes. We do not fully understand that every sin of ours today is another wound to Our Lord.

Every time we decide not to attend Sunday Mass because something else came up, we are the three who fall asleep and are awakened by Jesus’ sorrow words, “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” When we fail to stand up for Christ or His Church, we are Peter turning away saying, “I do not know this man!” though only a bit ago we promised, “I will not deny you.”

Each act of greed or anger is another stripe across the back of the Lord. Our lustful acts and gluttony tear open His flesh because we have failed to properly make use of ours.

Our vengeful, impure and judgmental thoughts are thorns piercing the Sacred Head of Christ. Every word of profanity, gossip, degradation, or self-exaltation is another curse hurled at Our Lord as people spit upon Him. And when we exclaim ‘Oh my God’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ without really meaning it as a prayer, we are the guards that mock Jesus by dressing Him up and saluting Him, “Hail King of the Jews!” before slapping his head once more.

As we pass by those in need when we can help, we are the bystanders who watch as Our Lord continues to fall face down into the dirt path, buckling under the weight of the Cross pressing down upon Him. As we offer the drugged wine, we hold out to Him the times we have given in to drunkenness or drug use.

The nails that pierce His Holy and Venerable Hands are the many times where we have sought to tear control over our lives and our world from the hands of our God – our lack of trust and faith, our lack of openness to the Holy Spirit, and more physical things such as trying to build up unnecessary wealth for ourselves or using unnatural means of contraception to control our family.

And now after these many things we gaze upon our handy work. God has been rejected, bruised, beaten, pierced and now hangs nearly lifeless for all to see. And the amazing thing is that He let every bit of it happen. Like the suffering servant from our first reading – He has given His back to those who beat Him, his cheeks and face to be struck and spat upon. Rather than strike out in anger at us, He has permitted every one of these offenses to happen because He loves us.

My brothers and sisters, these are harsh things to ponder, but they are no reason to despair. In the Passion of Our Lord we find a sad story of creation’s rejection of the Creator. But more importantly, we find the story of the depth of the Love of that Creator for us, His creation, such that He would undergo anything to join them to Himself for eternity. He would go so far as to empty Himself of His glory and become obedient “even to the point of death – death on a Cross.”

This love is too much for us to understand and these things too far beyond us. Our Lord knows this clearly and for that reason He cries out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”

Father, forgive us. For we know not what we do.