Passion Sunday (A) The Passion of Matthew

When we hear the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ it sets a vivid scene for our meditation. I would like to set a second scene for you. The scene is in the area of many of our Northern Colorado hospitals in a place known as I.C.U. It is familiar territory to the doctors and nurses in our parish and anyone who has had a family member in intensive care. It is filled at this time due to a flu virus. It is familiar to the priests and the deacons as we minister there to the sick and the dying. It is a place where human suffering goes on night and day, flu season or not, amidst modern medicine’s maze of tubes, electronics, and beeping machines. It is a place where human life constantly hangs in the balance... my experience is that many people who come here find themselves asking the question “why?” Why all this suffering? Why me? Why us? Why now? Once I asked Father Bob Nevans how to answer those questions, he told me — “There is no real answer to that question; for no one can fathom the mind of God.” So, in order to have some sort of response to these people I turned to the Word of God.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, who shows his disciples how to live God’s love as a human being. Jesus embraces the fallen human condition proclaiming a word of hope to the suffering. He is that word of hope, He who became flesh and dwelt among us. He took on that flesh that he could take on our suffering. It is in Jesus that we find the way to accept our own suffering and dying and the suffering and dying of those we love.

St. Paul says, “Jesus emptied Himself and took the form of a slave” … I want you to stop and think about that statement. Jesus, the Son of God, the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, the Alpha and the Omega of all things, — emptied Himself — obediently accepting death, not just death but torture and death on the cross! Now you might say, Jesus could do that because He is the Son of God. Ah yes…but Jesus was human in every way but sin and his human nature was as horrified of suffering and death as we are. He begs His Father to let this cup pass from Him. His human nature is so stressed that He sweats blood. Yet He accepts the will of the father. What can we learn from Jesus? We can learn that all life and every death is sacred to God, that suffering is redemptive. His own Son’s life and death is a sin offering for our salvation. The act of Jesus emptying Himself to the will of the Father shows us that God alone is the sovereign Master of Life. We, on the other hand, are stewards, not masters, of the life God entrusts to us. Therefore, it follows that we have not the right to cause death in order to eliminate suffering, whether our own or anybody else’s. Euthanasia, assisted or non-assisted suicide, and abortion are grave sins against this gift of life given by the Father, and those who promote it are the “Culture of Death.”

A young school girl once wrote the following letter to God for her religion class: Dear God, Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones all the time, why don’t you just keep the ones you have now? — Jane. This is a child’s limited view of God’s infinite plan. But even more childish is the modern idea that we can and will eliminate every one’s suffering — and how do we propose to do that? The culture of death says, we’ll just take their life from them. This is because these people do not believe there is a God of life, or a life after death, and so, as if they are soulless, we just remove their life. This is not reasonable, or moral, or human.

Look back at our dear St. John Paul II, who suffered from a vicious Parkinson’s disease. Changing him from a dynamic priest and preacher to a mumbling bent over old man who continued his ministry as best he could until the disease took him. He modeled himself after Jesus on the cross. Pope Benedict XVI became so crippled and unable to walk and talk, that he has given the papacy over to a younger man. But Benedict continues to write and pray for the Church until the Lord is willing to take him to himself. These are good examples for us as to how we should face the end of life that we all know will come. Some of us will have control of that end while others will not. Pope Francis once said, “If you look at life as something to be consumed, it will also be something that sooner or later you can throw away. However, life is a gift from God and if it is accepted as such, then you have before you a valuable and intangible asset, to be protected by all means and not to be discarded.”

Jesus says to His disciples about his life, “what shall I say, Father save me from this hour? —No, for this very purpose I have come into this world.” Again He says, “Shall I not drink from this cup which the Father has given me?” And then from the cross he cries “I thirst” He thirsts for the Father’s cup, and then he says “It is finished” and He dies. Christ’s whole life, and especially His death, is an offering to the Father. Ours should follow His example.

Let us continue now with our memorial of Christ’s Passion and Death; a memorial where we do more than remember — we relive it, through The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.