Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. April 14, 2019.
Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; LK 23:1-49
Finding strength for the storms of life
Talk about disconnect and you have the greatest example in Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He knows every single thing that awaited Him in Jerusalem – His betrayal by Judas, Peter denying Him, the Twelve deserting Him, the enthusiastic crowd eventually turning on Him, His being handed over to the Jewish leaders, His mock trial and sentence, His being scourged and mocked and eventually nailed on the cross.
On the other hand, His disciples and the accompanying crowd were jubilant and celebrating, “The whole multitude of His disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Jesus courageously entered Jerusalem despite the full knowledge of the pains and sufferings that awaited Him there and the complete disconnect with His disciples. How could He do this? How can we learn from Him when we too face the storms of life and our companions in life appear completely disconnected from us, unable or unwilling to share in our pains?
The Prophet Isaiah shows us three ways in which we too can act like Christ and find inner strength to face the storms of life even if we have to face them alone.
First, we must learn how to listen to God alone in the storms of life. The Prophet Isaiah prophecies of a mysterious Servant of God who listens to God even as he is derided and persecuted by others, “Morning after morning He (God) opens my ear that I may hear.” God always speaks and trains His servants, in good and in bad times, and the servant is always ready to be taught by God in all circumstances first before he can speak God’s words to others with fidelity.
Secondly, we must listen with an attitude of readiness to obey God without conditions or compromise. Nothing makes God’s servant take back his commitment to obey God, “I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” God will not reveal His will for us and train us appropriately if we lack this commitment to act on His word and obey Him unconditionally.
Thirdly, we must obey with the intention of pleasing God alone no matter the pains or gains that may come with our act of obedience. God’s servant seeks to please God and is ready to be despised and rejected by others, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked at my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spiting.”
These qualities of Isaiah’s Servant of God are fulfilled by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who freely chose to “empty Himself and take the form of a slave.” Jesus saw beyond what people said and did to Him; He rather chose to listen to the Father’s invitation to Him through all the people and events of His life. This is why He is not crushed by the rejection of the crowd, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” or by the mockery of His executioners, “He saved others; let Him save Himself.” He is also not swayed or deterred by the tears of the women of Jerusalem, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children.” Jesus is the one who embodies this unconditional obedience to the Father, obeying “even to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He did this not for personal gain but to please the Father who responded by “greatly exalting Him (Jesus) and bestowing on Him the name above every name.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we face imminent storms and trials in our personal lives, families, societies, or Church, we may even feel alone and abandoned by others. We lose inner strength when we simply believe what others are saying whether it is true or not or when we become fixated on the numerous acts of evil and injustice of our times without asking what God is conveying to us in these moments. We forget the discernment question, “What is God teaching me about Himself, myself, and my life with Him at this particular moment?”
Secondly, we forfeit inner strength when our obedience is conditional or lacking in universality. We see this when many today are passionate about immigration and climate control issues but do not see anything wrong with the slaughter of millions of children through abortion or what is called “same-sex” marriage. We settle for a convenient and risk-free obedience that shies away from anything that may be demanding for us or considered politically incorrect.
Thirdly, we become spiritually impotent when our obedience to God becomes self-serving. This occurs when we obey God for the sake of some temporal gain and to avoid some painful things. We want to obey God and still be accepted and approved by others who care nothing about God and His will for us.
St. Peter teaches us: “Jesus Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.”(1Pet 3:18) Jesus brings us back to God along the same path that He has taken Himself – the path of suffering and loneliness. There is no other path to the glorious life of God but the path of the cross in our lives and the feeling of being alone in our suffering. Jesus also put it this way: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”(Jn 16:20)
Our Eucharistic Lord comes to us in our pains and sense of isolation to bring us back to God. Our sorrows will become joy when we begin to travel with Him back to our Heavenly Father along the way of suffering and painful isolation. There are three requirements for us if we are going to have strength for this long, difficult, and painful journey. First, we do just not listen to the world but we listen to God speaking life-giving words to us through all events and persons in this world. Second, we seek to do God’s will unconditionally and not our own wills. Lastly, we choose to obey Him for the sake of pleasing Him alone. This is how we will find strength to face and overcome the storms and trials of life even if we feel disconnected from others.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!!