As we begin Holy Week, today, we have to remember that only you and I can make this week holy! If we treat the next seven days as any ordinary week, without making some room in our busy schedules for reflection and prayer, then our holy week will be “holy” in name only.
Here at All Hallows we will try our best to make this week “holy” by offering you prayerful liturgies – beginning with our Mass today; which reminds us of how merciful God is to send his Son, Jesus, to us, NOT to condemn us, BUT to save us. And Jesus knew, from the very beginning, that this would not be easy! — IN PLAIN ENGLISH, Jesus KNEW that the SALVATION he came to bring us, could NOT – and would NOT COME without a “steep price”; and the PRICE was SUFFERING! — BECAUSE nothing worthwhile in this life ever comes without some kind of SUFFERING!
This (evening/morning), I, as your pastor, am going to ask you to join me in doing something rather “astonishing!” — (Tonight/this morning) I am inviting you to join me in JOINING OUR SUFFERINGS (whatever those sufferings might be) to the sufferings of JESUS CHRIST! — In other words, we are not here (tonight/this morning) as passive bystanders, simply to listen to the story of Jesus’ passion and death, feel badly for him; and then take home a few palms to decorate the walls of our homes! — NO, (tonight/this morning) you and I are being challenged to bring OUR OWN PERSONAL SUFFERINGS – OUR OWN PERSONAL SHARE IN THE CROSS (whatever that might be) – and “UNITE” those sufferings – (that “share of the cross”) – with the sufferings of Jesus himself!
OUR SUFFERING may take the form of a life-threatening or terminal illness (either our own or that of a loved one); abuse – (physical or mental); the loss of employment; a forced move; a false accusation; ongoing lack of recognition; the death of a once loving and life-giving relationship; a physical or mental handicap; having to watch the downward spiral of a once healthy parent or spouse as he or she moves from vibrant independence to complete dependence; failure in school or at work; a betrayal; abandonment; loneliness; fear; anxiety…. the list of SUFFERINGS is as VARIED as YOU and I are! — But, NO ONE ESCAPES SUFFERING in this life! — And you and I have the advantage of KNOWING that our suffering (whatever it might be) is our PERSONAL SHARE IN THE CROSS! (Tailor made just for you; tailor made just for me; to bring us to glory, just as Jesus’ cross brought him to the glory of his resurrection!) — JESUS HIMSELF PUT IT VERY SUCCENCTLY IN ST. MATTHEW’S GOSPEL, Chapter 10, – WHEN HE SAID “whoever does not take up his cross (whoever does not take up her cross) and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
By saying this, Jesus was just reminding us that since: EVERYONE (without exception) experiences some type of SUFFERING in this life! — the question becomes: “WHAT am I going to CHOOSE TO DO “with” suffering when it comes my way? — WILL I opt to stay stalled in the ANGER STAGE? — Asking over and over again, UNANSWERABLE QUESTIONS like: “Why me?” – “What have I done to deserve this?”
Will I spend all my energies trying to PROTECT MYSELF from SUFFERING? — Which is pointless since suffering of one type or another is built into the human condition!
OR will I CHOOSE the “healthiest” AND the most “Christian” RESPONSE to SUFFERING? — Will I CHOOSE to face the “REALITY” of my SUFFERING “head on”! — And then, freely UNITE that SUFFERING with the suffering of JESUS?
In his Letter to the Colossians (1:24) St. Paul said (Quote): “Now I rejoice in my sufferings…. (for) in my flesh I am FILLING UP what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ….” —– In other words, OUR SUFFERING CAN BE “REDEMPTIVE” (BOTH for ourselves and for others) – IF we freely and consciously – join our suffering with the suffering of Jesus. – SO LET’S NOT WASTE THIS PRECIOUS OPPORTUNITY to do something good for ourselves and for someone else; by LAYING our sufferings at the feet of our crucified SAVIOR. — So that, “UNITED with HIM in his SUFFERING on the cross, we might (someday) SHARE his RESURRECTION and new life!”