FOCUS: We remember the suffering of Christ and are called to accompany others in theirs.
Each year on Palm Sunday, we recount the story of Jesus’ passion. We hear about the events leading up to his arrest; the agony of his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane; the passing of his case back and forth between Pilate, Herod and the Sanhedrin. We imagine what it was like for the very Incarnation of God to be judged by human beings. Each year, we are invited to enter into this story, to remember it, to accompany Jesus during these trials.
It is not the pleasant escape that we might find when we watch a movie or read a book. Rather, with his eyes we see the crowd whom he loves, shouting for his very death. With him, we witness his closest friends abandon, deny or watch from a distance. We see the cruelty of rulers and soldiers who mock him, beat him and gamble for his garments. We are asked to remember the horrible death he endured, a public and agonizing death of being nailed to a cross.
It is an unpleasant business, the suffering of Jesus and of the world – for Jesus’ death and resurrection did not remove suffering from our lives or the lives of those we love. And it can be terrifying to experience suffering ourselves or to walk with someone who is in distress. And we have choices when we do. We can be like Peter who denies, or the soldier who jeers; we can be an acquaintance who watches, or Pilate who washes his hands of the matter.
Or we can be like Joseph of Arimathea, who refuses to participate in an unjust persecution, or like the women who do not run from the agony of Jesus’ death, but tended to his broken, lifeless body. Perhaps we will be like the centurion who praises God, even in the midst of darkness.
It is much easier, in the midst of affliction and suffering, to find a distraction: to turn on the television, to shop for the newest gadgets, to escape. Yet each year, Palm Sunday puts suffering squarely in our midst. Why? Because our suffering, and the suffering of the world, are bound to Christ’s. We are asked to enter into our Lord’s passion – to walk with him, to accompany him as he faces utmost cruelty, injustice, pain, abandonment, so that we may walk with others who suffer. We are asked to accompany them, to be for them what some of the more admirable people were for Jesus in his darkest hour.
So as we enter into Christ’s passion and partake of his victory found in the Eucharist, let us pray for the grace to see what is before us, to open our hearts to those who need us and to accompany those who suffer. Just as Christ did, and continues to do, for us.