Saturday, April 4, 2009

Palm Sunday (B)

Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mk 14:1-15, 47

A spiritual writer commented that the Passion of the Christ is not primarily a story of the sufferings of Jesus but rather of the greatness of his love. The Lord did suffer and his suffering was second to none. But suffering is not necessarily salvific. Jesus' passion had brought salvation to the world because it was a product of his extraordinary love.

We know for a fact that pain and suffering do not always follow from unselfish loving. Some people suffer because of their unmet personal dreams and ambitions; others out of jealousy to the success of others; while some others due to the effects of a vicious life. These kinds of suffering have no salvific value. The suffering of Christ is different because it is a result of his unconditional love for humanity. He accepted the cross and carried it all the way to his death in order to give life to a sinful world.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah delivers the third song of the Suffering Servant which explains the salvific value of accepting suffering for God's sake. Suffering is evil and must not be sought for its own sake. And yet when it is accepted out of obedience to God or for the service of one's fellowmen, then suffering indeed becomes special and life-giving.

Saint Paul, in the second reading, describes the personal sacrifices that Christ did for the salvation of all. He humbled himself by becoming like us in everything except sin. He lived the life of a faithful servant of God and he served unselfishly the needs of people. Because he remained obedient until death, God glorified him and bestowed on him the name which is above all names.

As we enter into the most holy of all weeks, let us try to see and reflect deeply on our personal sufferings in the light of the sacrificial acts of Christ. Are our sufferings a product of our love for God or simply a result of unmet personal wants and ambitions? Are we struggling because of a sincere desire to serve the needs of others or simply because of bad conditions in business and work? What causes our worries and anxieties? Do we agonize over the fact that God's will is not observed in our families or simply because our personal wishes are not followed? Are we troubled because we see the difficult conditions of the poor or simply because the neighbor's business is flourishing?

If our struggles and sufferings are offshoots of our great love for God and fellowmen, then we can hope to rise with Christ and share his ultimate victory in heaven.

There is a story told of a young boy whose older brother was in a car crash. The father approached the younger son shortly after the crash and said, “Son, if you will, you older brother needs a blood transfusion in order to live. The doctors have determined that you can provide this blood. Will you provide blood for your brother so that he may live?” The younger son did not hesitate in answering he would indeed help his older brother. Unknown to the little boy was the relative simplicity and safety of the procedure.

The car ride to the hospital was unusually quiet for this normally very talkative little boy. The father, at the same time in the most awkward and difficult position of his entire life, thought best to leave the young boy to his own thoughts. The father and young boy entered the now familiar doors of the town hospital. As the father and son sat in the hospital room, the nurse entered with the needle in hand. She commented how courageous the young boy was, prepared the boys right arm as she had done to hundreds of other patients over the years, and slowly inserted the needle into his arm; the vial began to quickly fill with the young boys blood. After the vial filled, the young boy, with tears in his eyes, turned to his father and asked, “Daddy, how long do I now have before I die?”

(The story is from an unknown author)