Isaiah 50: 4 – 7
Philippians 2: 6 – 11
Luke 22:14 – 23: 56
Every time we reach this time of year and we stand for this long Passion story, it goes through our minds
why we do that. But the answer is if we don’t tell the story, we won’t know why we’re here. The
suffering of Jesus, which we recall in a special way today, has been a source of strength to countless
people throughout history. These people like millions of refugees, migrants in the world today could
never have endured their suffering without the knowledge that Jesus had suffered before them and was
now supporting them in their hour of trial.
First, he suffered mentally.
Jesus experienced this kind of suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. He sweated blood just thinking
about the ordeal that lay before him. Jesus also suffered mental anguish when his followers betrayed and
deserted him. All of us can related to mental suffering. An in our mental suffering we can turn to Jesus.
Second, Jesus suffered physically.
He was brutally beaten, crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross. Again we can all related to physical
pain. We have all experienced it, some more than others.
Finally, Jesus suffered spiritually.
For example, as he hung helplessly on the cross, it seemed that even his Father had abandoned him.
Again we can all relate to spiritual suffering. There have been times when all of us have felt abandoned
Jesus’ passion is ours too.
With the celebration of Palm Sunday, we begin a week of a lot of activity, a week of much tension,
anguish and turmoil a week of experience of various sentiments culminating a sense of great relief. We
hold palms in our hands, walk in procession acclaiming Jesus as our King. But with whom are you
identifying this week with the twelve disciples, at the Last Supper, with Judas Iscariot, with those who
disputed who was the greatest among them, with Simon who said, “Lord I am ready to go with you to
prison and to death”, but later denied him three times, with the three closest disciples of Jesus who could
not keep awake while Jesus was going through agony on the Mount of Olives, with Judas who betrayed
him with a kiss for thirty pieces of silver, with the maid who said referring to Peter “This man also was
with him”, with the cock who crowed, with those who mocked him, beat him and humiliated him, with
the chief priests and scribes, with Pilate who washed his hands, with Herod who had long desired to see
him, with those who preferred Barabbas to Jesus, with those who cried “Crucify him, crucify him!”, with
Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus to carry His cross, with the women who bewailed and lamented him,
with Veronica who wiped his face with a cloth, with the criminals who were crucified beside Jesus, with
the criminal who mocked him, with the criminal who prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come in
your kingly power”, with Joseph of Arimathea who helped lower the body of Jesus, with John the
beloved disciple who took Mary as his mother and with Mary the mother of Jesus who accompanied him
throughout his agony, passion and death? This week you cannot be a passive spectator. You have to be
involved in the happenings of the Holy Week. You cannot be a passive spectator. You have to be
involved in the happenings of the Holy Week. But what is your part, your place and role in this?
Identify your place an role and show to the world where you stand in relationship with the Suffering
Servant, with your Creator and Savior. What is going to be your focus this week – Easter Eggs or on
your conversion, returning to the Lord, repentance, believing in the Good News of Jesus, confession of
your sins, wanting forgiveness and reconciliation? Are you prepared to keep your gaze on Jesus who
keeps looking at you with both his hands stretched on the cross as a sign of wanting to embrace you and
the entire humanity in love, forgiveness and reconciliation? What is your response to him? Will it result
a change of heart, change of life, change of behavior, transformation or your relationships for the better?
Choose between eternal life and spiritual death, between Christ the Light and Devil the Darkness,
between pride and humility, love and hatred, between the Gospel of Joy and Sad News of Despair and
earn your reward accordingly.
“He was oppressed and was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. Like a lamb that is led to the
slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth” (Is 53:7). For the
followers of Christ, this Isaiah text evokes a response deep down within us, seeing how they apply to
God’s only beloved Son, and how he died for all of us. In the words of St Peter, “without having seen
him you have come to believe in him, and so you are filled already with a joy so glorious that it cannot
be described” (1 Pet 1:8). Without this sincere love of Christ, we are no true followers of his. We cannot
say we fully love him, until we appreciate what he suffered for us.
Today, having heard the Passion narrative there is no real necessity to retrace in great detail the events
there described. But it is well to bear in mind that Christ was no stranger to hardship, privation and
suffering, long before that final day of his life. “Being in the form of God,” as St Paul says, from the
moment he came on earth, Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings
are (Phil 2:6f). He, the most high God, suffered the hardships of the poor, at times not even having a
place to lay his head. He endured hunger and thirst, and after long days surrounded by crowds seeking a
cure, he often spent whole nights at prayer in the hills. Despite his compassion for all who came to him,
he met with hatred and rejection, in particular from Pharisees and priests, who planned to have him
killed. How this rejection and hatred must have grieved him. King Lear knew “How sharper than a
serpent’s tooth it is, to have a thankless child;” and how must Jesus have felt at being rejected by the
people he had chosen, above all others.
So terrible was the inner struggle of Jesus as he faced his death, that in the garden his sweat became like
drops of blood falling to the ground. Another bitter pill was the knowledge that one of his own circle of
twelve would betray him, that most of the others would leave him, and that even the loyal St Peter would
repeatedly swear he had never met him. But most terrible of all was his feeling of being abandoned by
God, his inner spirit shrouded in a darkness that reflected the murky darkness that enveloped Calvary as
the end drew near. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The features of that face so cruelly disfigured were those of the Son of God. The forehead streaming with
blood, the hands and feet nailed to the Cross, the body lacerated with scourges, the side pierced with a
lance, these were the forehead, the hands and feet, the sacred body, the side of the eternal Word, made
visible in Jesus. Why such suffering? We can only say with Isaiah, “It was for our transgressions he was
smitten, for our sins he was brought low. On him lay the punishment that brings us healing, through his
wounds we are made whole” (53:5ff). God, our Father, grant that your Son’s suffering for us may not be
The story we have just heard invites us to identify with those who saw Jesus with the eyes of faith and
love, who recognized the light of God in the darkness of Jesus’ passion and death. When we look upon
the passion and death of Jesus with such eyes, we see a divine love that is stronger than sin, a divine light
that shines in all our darkness, a divine power that brings new life out of all our deaths, a divine poverty
that enriches us at the deepest level of our being. We have heard the story of Jesus’ last journey told in
the space of ten minutes. This Holy Week, the church invites us to travel that journey at a much slower
pace, day by day as it were. We are invited to enter into that journey with the eyes of the anointing
woman, the centurion, Joseph of Arimathea and the group of faithful women. We look beneath the
surface of what is happening, we listen deeply to all that is taking place, so as to recognize the good
Shepherd who laid down his life for us all, so that we might have life.
Let me place before you one thought: Before the triumphant entry into Jerusalem Jesus instructs two of
his disciples, ‘Go to the village there ahead of you; as you go in, you will find a colt tied up that has
never been ridden. Unite it and bring it here. If someone asks you why you are untying it, tell him that
the Master needs it’ (Mathew 19:31). Commenting on this Bishop Fulton Sheen says, “Perhaps no
greater paradox was ever written than this on the one hand the sovereignty of Lord, and on the other hand
his “need.” This combination of Divinity and dependence, of possession and poverty was the
consequence of the Word becoming flesh. Truly, he who was rich became poor of our sakes, that we
might be rich. Our Lord borrowed a boat from a fisherman from which to preach; he borrowed a grave
from which he would rise and now be borrowed an ass on which to enter Jerusalem. Sometimes God
preempts and requisitions the things of man, as if to remind him that everything is a gift from him.”
(Fulton J Sheen, The Life of Christ).
What do the various characters mentioned above awake in you? What does the Lord want to borrow
Wish you a fruitful, gracefilled Holy Week.