PALM SUNDAY: Jesus loves until it hurts

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By Fr. Wilfred Sumani, SJ

Readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66

Mother Teresa loved to say, “Give, but give until it hurts.” One can also say, “Love, but love until it hurts”. Jesus Christ, who today is acclaimed as Son of David and a prophet from Nazareth, comes “in the name of the Lord” to love until it hurts, to give of himself up to the last drop of his blood.

The first reading from Isaiah (which is a prophecy of the passion of Christ), presents a two-faced character of the servant of Yahweh. On the one hand, he is very ACTIVE when it comes to hearing the word of God and proclaiming it to others. Each morning he wakes up to hear God’s word. God has sharpened the servant’s tongue so he may know how “to reply to the wearied”. The word of God empowers him with wisdom, which is manifested in the ability to say a ‘good word’ to those in desperate situations, to give hope to those who are on the verge of giving up on God’s promises.

He does not cover his face against insult and spittle

On the other hand, the servant of Yahweh is a PASSIVE figure who lets things happen to him; he suffers people’s insults and spite without putting up any resistance. He offers his back to those who strike him, his cheeks to those who tear at his beard. He does not cover his face against insult and spittle. This is not a passivity that comes from fear of the powers that be. Nor is it a passivity resulting from ignorance of one’s rights. Rather it emanates from the servant’s conviction that with God on his side, he cannot be shaken. God has already won the victory for him.

One sees a similar passivity in the account of the Passion of Christ. Jesus does not offer any resistance to those striking him or throwing spittle at him. When one of his disciples tries to fight back in Jesus’ defence, Jesus tells him to put his sword back. Jesus reminds the disciple that he has the power to appeal to the Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to his defence. During the trial, Jesus also remains silent for the most part, except on a few occasions when he thought he needed to respond to the questions of his accusers. Jesus is able to endure his suffering because he listens to the word of the Father.

Without passion the tiniest obstacle is sure to bring an enterprise to a halt

The Letter to the Philippians puts the suffering of Christ in a proper perspective. Jesus is not simply a Jew condemned to death on account of his ‘blasphemy’; rather, his suffering is an act of SELF-EMPTYING (kenosis) for the life of the world. Jesus gives of himself until it hurts. Without love, suffering breeds despair and bitterness. But when suffering is motivated by love, then it becomes PASSION.

The events of the Holy Week, especially the Easter Triduum, show us that love conquers everything. When one loves someone or something, no price is too great to pay, no place too distant to reach. In this world, great things are accomplished thanks to passion. Nothing worthwhile can be undertaken without passion. Indeed, without passion the tiniest obstacle is sure to bring an enterprise to a halt. Just as Jesus loves us passionately, we too are called to love him with passion; otherwise, faced with trials and temptations, we will turn away from him.

Let us pray that during this Holy Week, God will increase our love for Jesus so that we too may give ourselves to prayer, meditation and charity until it hurts.

By Fr. Wilfred Sumani, SJ

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