March 23, 2010
Suffer with Jesus
Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday
March 28, 2010
Luke 23: 1-49 “All his friends stood at a distance”
In our dream to have a slim and perfect body, we exercise daily to burn our excess calories. Some end up strained and frustrated. The daily exercise becomes a mere “calorie burning” activity. But some are smiling and fulfilled. They don’t care about calories. They exercise for one good reason – a healthy life. And they benefit much from it, including losing weight.
Holy week could also be like that. It becomes an annual tiring religious ritual when done for pure religious obligation of fasting, abstinence, praying the way of the cross, vigils and attending long Holy Thursday Mass to Easter Vigil Mass as penance for our sins.
But Holy Week is more than that. It’s a life-giving spiritual exercise. It’s a profound opportunity of bringing into our “here and now” the passion and death of Jesus and making his love real for us. Holy week liturgies and rituals are pregnant with meanings. If taken seriously, it could lead us to a spiritual growth and renewal. But we need to involve ourselves to the different images of Jesus’ humiliation, suffering and death on the cross. Let it sink into our hearts to gain profit from it. Bear in mind that when Jesus suffered on the cross, it was not only his body that suffered much but his soul. The suffering was so intense that he sweated blood in the garden and begged his disciples to stay with him: “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” (Mark 14:34). Unfortunately, the disciples fled and left him alone.
When we are distress, we ask God, “Where are you in my pain and suffering?” But Jesus is asking us, “Where are you in mine?” This Holy Week, let’s stay and suffer with Jesus. Don’t run like the disciples. Be like Mary and John who stayed with Jesus until his death.
But how do we dispose ourselves for the Holy Week? How do we gain profit from it? St. Ignatius of Loyola suggested a specific grace to ask when meditating the Passion of Christ:
“Ask for sorrow and regret, because the Lord is going to his Passion for my sins.
Ask for an interior suffering because of the great suffering he is to endure for me.”
The feelings of sorrow and regret is not so much that our sins merited death but our sins are the cause of Jesus’ death: “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we are healed.” (Is 52:13 - 53:12).
But Ignatius does not end here. It’s his hope that while meditating how Jesus willingly suffered and died for me (to make it more personal); I may realize the depth and breadth of God’s love for me. And in gratitude, I would be moved to consider the question:
“What should I do and suffer for him?”
As we commemorate the Paschal Mystery, may it lead us to an overwhelming gratitude that Jesus died for us, so “that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
Holy Week is an intense spiritual exercise. Walk with him on the road to Calvary. Feel his interior pain and sorrow. Be grateful. For his death merited life for you.
- Fr. Willy M. Samson,SJ / Sacred Heart Community, Los Gatos, California / March 28, 2010