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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES | Love’s suffering

We enter into Holy Week with this celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the Gospel of Mark’s rendition of the passion and death of Jesus. As you take the time to go through each of the incidences of Scripture in this weekend’s celebration, you will notice the various Old and New Testament images and situations that remind us how we suffer and how Jesus suffered when we choose to love.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that if we listen to God and follow His example and choose love, even those who hate us, we will find ourselves in situations where we experience pain and suffering. Just like Jesus, we are asked to turn the other cheek, endure suffering that is the result of others’ hatred, and to forgive even those who are willing to hurt us. This is a celebration that is an odd combination of triumph and tragedy. We can take this opportunity to notice the situation in our lives where we have a chance to do with others as Jesus has taught us.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, sets before us what still seems to be one of the most difficult choices in our human existence. Those of us who have many options and choices in life seldom think about voluntarily emptying ourselves for the sake of another. When we are asked to be charitable or to assist others in their need, we usually make sure that our needs are taken care of and then we decide what part of our surplus we are willing to give.

I remember as a child the opportunities that we had to share food with the hungry. I am not proud to say that I would look through the food cupboard in search of lima beans since I really didn’t like them. I certainly don’t hold that up as an example of charity. But I wonder how many of you have a similar approach to charity. Maybe I’ll donate this coat during the winter since I’m finished with it or these items because they’re out of fashion. Jesus chose to voluntarily empty Himself so that He might show his love for us. He embraced the suffering of His love. How will each of us take His invitation to follow in His footsteps and to embrace the suffering that true love for our enemies invites us into?

Each year we are given opportunities to reflect on various renditions of the passion of Jesus. We know the story and many of its details, but each Gospel writer fashions this saga in a different way. The Gospel of Mark invites us to look at the very real human experience of being betrayed by friends. We hear and see Jesus’ reaction to the betrayal and hear His forgiveness uttered from the cross. We see in here Jesus as He is accused of things He never did. These accusations come from other people’s fear of his power and his truth. We witnessed Jesus and His commitment to the truth without a need to overpower or punish. How many times have we been willing to suffer for those who have betrayed us? How many times are we willing to forgive those who have abandoned us? How can we begin at this moment of our lives to voluntarily empty ourselves for the sake of those who would betray us? It is no wonder that the Scripture tells us that the cross is a stumbling block for many. The sufferings that come from love are epitomized on the cross.

What will carrying the palms, laying down your cloak and embracing the cross look like this year as we make our way through Holy Week? Let this be a week of commitment and not just reminiscence.

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