Is 52.13-53.12; Ps 31; Hb 4.14-16;5.7-9; Jn 18.1-19.42
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Praise, Gratitude, Service: Gifts of the Cross
Today we remember that in Jesus God suffered for us and all creation. Not only did God suffer, God died. That has caused people to riot: God could not die and still be God! Throngs of people rioting about God dying may not move us. However, who here has not rioted within, and who has not endured the pains of internal revolt when God seems dead? Who of us has not writhed inside when God does not live up to our expectations? Who of us has not raged that God not only did not live up to our expectations but that God died?
Perhaps these seem silly or pointless distractions. If we live in the capital letters of high-definition and surround sound, when every scintilla of sight, sound, passion and pulse are clear, focused and palpable, God may register as a distraction. However, when we live in capital-letter worlds of suffering or of indescribable joy, when things don’t register like facts or seem as they appear, then we begin to sense God as real and challenging even if not near or vibrant.
This sketch of two worlds, the first in which we are in some semblance of control and the second in which we are not, invites us to take refuge in God our Lord, as the Psalmist sang and Jesus echoed personally in his Passion. To take refuge admits I’m not in control.
To move beyond reproach and “poor me” to affirming, You are my God. In your hands is my destiny, is each one’s passion. Today we focus on our Lord’s passion in its own capital-letter world, which high-definition and surround sound can never recapture. His cross offers us a new way to consider suffering.
Our sufferings will probably never come close to those of Jesus, or of the many in the world who suffer atrocious physical trials. The cross allows us to focus our sufferings: past and present; verbal; emotional; familial; social; those which accompany aging; and those which flow from infirmity--to name a few.
No one’s sufferings are trivial. Jesus’ courage during his passion encourages us as it reminds us that many of our personal sufferings are not of the caliber of high drama. Yet no matter their depth our wounds shape us. “Christ [Jesus] is still pained and tormented in his [sisters and brothers], made like him.”1 Jesus’ wounded glory forges an intimate bond with humans, and it reshapes each one’s suffering. The paschal mystery reshapes human feelings, sorrows, fears, sadness, suffering--and death itself.
Often we’ve heard and maybe even said, “Death is a part of life.” What kind of part? Is it possible to appreciate it? Perhaps words attributed to Chief Tecumseh can help us appreciate death--and any little death we may experience--as part of life, which acknowledges fears and abandoned feelings and gives birth to praise, gratitude and service.
Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.To the world Jesus seemed lost, forsaken, yet he was “going home.” To the world Jesus seemed silent, because he opened not his mouth, yet he overflowed with eloquence. To the world Jesus seemed a criminal, yet was heroic beyond compare, our chief high priest. Precisely why we acclaim: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you!” / “because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!”
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of
death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time
to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home./2/
1. Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of the Anointing and Viaticum, 2 (see 2 Corinthians 4.17).
2. Reprinted in Sacred Journey: the Journal of Fellowship in Prayer, April 2004, p. 32.
Wiki-image by Clio20 of Crucifixion in ivory is used according the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license. Wiki-image of a crucifixion pendant is in the public domain.