Sunday, April 13, 2014

Passion Sunday

I don't know why, but this is one of those Lents that has just seemed to linger.  It hasn't been particularly hard, but just long.  It's like one of those workouts that starts out feeling easy, but the sheer length of it makes you want to quit.  It seems like there are so many people suffering right now, and that makes it harder, I think. So many senseless tragedies.  So much horrible illness. My own particular cross is what it is, and there have been some of those times this Lent where it has just seemed like too much as well, just from the sheer weariness of the never changing and (seemingly) never ending load of it.  I don't know about you, but when it gets like that, it's hard to hold on to the idea that there could be any fruit from this, or that it could be doing anybody any good.

There are several things that have struck me in the recent weeks.  At Bible study a couple of weeks ago, we were discussing the choices that were made in the face of the Cross. As the Passion drew near, and the disciples could sense that things were brewing, Judas gave in to fear and greed.  The One that he had turned to for answers seemed to not have the answers that he was looking for.  He wanted a Messiah, but on his terms and for his own good in the way that he saw it.  When that seemed to be an impossibility, he turned his back on Jesus.  The despair eventually overtook him, and he killed himself.  Then there was Peter, also scared, I am sure.  Also uncertain of what was going to happen to this Man that he followed, but Peter remained convinced that this Man was the Messiah, whether it was the Messiah he had expected to see or not.  Peter was determined to follow Christ, no matter what.  It turned out that he failed in that darkest hour.  He also denied Christ in the midst of the fear and the pain, not once, but three times.  However, he turned and threw himself on Christ's mercy and became the first Papa of the Church.  His willingness to follow, to admit when he was wrong and to always turn back led to much fruit.

The thing is, no matter how much many of us want to follow God, in the face of the Cross, when it really gets down to the nitty gritty, when it is harder and darker in the shadow of that Cross than we ever could have imagined, we don't really know how we will respond.  Sometimes we will be beautifully faithful, and other times we will fail miserably.  Like Christ we will fall multiple times.  But will we get back up again, and will we turn back to Him? That is really the question.

In the face of the Cross, we have a lot of questions.  It hurts so bad and none of it makes any sense at all. Why would a God who purportedly loves us allow all of this to happen? If He is truly good and if He is truly all powerful and loving, why the heck does He send this suffering? What kind of a plan is it that He has concocted that allows this much pain?

The thing is, He does not cause any of this pain and suffering.  If you want a beautiful testimony to that, there is this post. (Warning, the situation facing this family is absolutely heart breaking, but this woman's love and trust in God is all the more beautiful for that.  Pray for them!) I also liked this quote from Father Longnecker (thanks to Stephanie Z. for sharing it):

Evil causes suffering for which there is no rational answer. Because the devil is the father of lies, there is not truth. None. Nowhere. Therefore the suffering he causes is irrational and absurd. This is why suffering hurts so much- because there is no answer.

I have also been thinking of what Kat said several weeks ago. This line in particular got me: "When you go through suffering and realize that you are carrying a cross that you can't really get rid of, there comes a time when you have to choose between self-pity and self-sacrifice." It's not (as she goes on to point out) that self-sacrifice means that the pain and the mess and all of the feelings will go away, or that we should try to ignore them or be all smiles and light in the midst of the darkness.  It's just that in one choice, there can be growth and new life, and in the other there is stagnation.  With this already on my mind, I was particularly struck by something that Scott Hahn said in his book, Consuming the Word. He is says that Christ, in instituting the Eucharist on Holy Thursday "transformed Calvary from a Roman execution to a holy sacrifice- the consummation of his self-offering that was initiated in the Upper Room.  Thus, he didn't lose his life on Good Friday, since he has already given it- in loving sacrifice- on Holy Thursday."

We will all suffer.   We will all experience that feeling that God has abandoned us.  Keep in mind that choosing to accept that Cross does not transform it into something light and airy.  Christ accepted His, and simply carrying it to Calvary it almost killed Him.  He fell and fell again. He would not have gotten it there if He had not had help.  And when He did get to the top of the hill, He died.  If we accept our cross and follow Him, it will be a mess still.  But because He died on Calvary, that mess and that pain no longer has to be meaningless.  It can become a source of life.  It can become a part of the victory over pain, death and sin. Maybe here and now, often not until heaven, but He has overcome the world.  He has made it so that the suffering that was once completely absurd and useless can become new life.

Pasque flowers; so named because they start to show up around Easter.  One of the first wildflowers we see here in the Spring.  New life after a long winter, and associated with Easter- so new life after a long Lent, too.

5 comments:

  1. I have definitely been doing a terrible horrible job of carrying my crosses lately, and have been choosing self pity, rather self sacrifice. I know Im only making myself more miserable. Its good to remember that Jesus used st peter dedpite his weakness. This is a great reflection.

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  2. Beautifully said! I have felt like this Lent has gone by rather quickly, but that could be because I have been busier than I usually am idk I am just glad it's Holy Week. I always think about which apostle or person I think I would've been and which one I would like to be like especially as we reflect the events more closely on Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

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  3. Wow! This is a beautiful reflection. I really needed to hear it as we enter Holy Week. Thank you!

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  4. I love the reminder that we will all suffer, but that there is meaning to it. That is one of the essential pieces missing in our culture right now - that suffering is inevitable and valuable.

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  5. Great post, M. A lot to reflect on from it. Thank you!

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