(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: 3pm)
29 March 2013
(Readings: Is 52:13-53:12; Ps 30; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1-19:42)
Sometimes when we think of Jesus’ passion – his condemnation, scourging, carrying of the cross, and the crucifixion – sometimes we might think: look at this sad thing that his happening to him, this horrible thing. And it certainly is horrible. It’s confronting because it makes us see what aweful things human beings are capable of.
But it would be wrong to think that Jesus is just a passive victim, that his suffering is just an accident of circumstances.
On Palm Sunday, the King enters the royal city. He enters the city accompanied by joy: the crowds are delighted: they spread their garments before him, they sing, they wave palm and olive branches. “Blessed is the King who comes,” they sing. “Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul.” (1)
Today, this same King, having entered the royal city, now takes his throne. But what a throne it is! Not of gold or marble: but wood. The Holy Cross is Jesus’ royal throne. Jesus takes his place on this throne willingly. Perhaps this shocks us a little – it should!
Jesus carries the burden of the Cross, and takes this throne upon himself because “Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including the sin of all of us, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil? Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money that you can’t take with you [when you die] … love of power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And – as each one of us knows and is aware – our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation. Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for us on the throne of the Cross.” (1)
So yes, there is a sorrowful aspect to contemplating Jesus’ passion, but there is an even more powerful joyful and hopeful aspect as we consider what Jesus is actively doing: cleansing evil, filth and sin; and conquering every death-dealing force with God’s love in his resurrection. Because we have to remember: the story doesn’t end today! In the body of Jesus, death and evil come face to face with the power of God’s love in the resurrection, and death, sin and evil are conquered forever, and their ultimate power over us is undone.
Today as we pause for a moment at the Cross, the royal throne of Jesus, we have a chance to name and to bring to God all those things in ourselves, our families and loved ones, our communities, and indeed our world – all the things that we want to be transformed by the power of God’s love in the resurrection. We’ll take a few moments of silence now just to bring to mind those things – suffering in its many forms: sickness, sin, addictions, estrangement and alienation, hurt, violence, infidelity. As we pray the Solemn Intercessions we exercise our role as a priestly people, and intercede for the many needs of the Church and world. And then as we come forward to adore the Holy Cross by touching or kissing the wood of the cross, may that be our prayer that those things and situations we are praying for will be transformed by God’s love and mercy in the resurrection of Jesus.
(1) Pope Francis, Homily Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, 24 March 2013, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130324_palme_en.html