Homilies

Palm Sunday
Isaish 50: 4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Mt 26: 14 - 27:66
Sufferings of Jesus – Our Sufferings?

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 10 April 2017

The Proclamation of the Gospel of St Matthew that we just participated in reveal to us what Jesus when through in His Suffering before He died.  The Sufferings and Death of Jesus that leads to His Resurrection are the fullest expressions of God’s Love for us. These Sufferings of Jesus are not detached Sufferings; they are inseparable from the human sufferings and also our personal sufferings that have come from our lifestyles, attitudes and decisions we make daily. 

And so, even as today’s Passion story of Jesus is rich and powerful on its own, it would still be good for us to recapture some of the key experiences of Jesus and reflect on how they are relatedto the way we live our faith.  In doing so, we will see how we are each called to admit our responsibilities of adding to the Sufferings of Jesus in different ways and at different times of our lives.

 

First, we hear of how one of Jesus’ closest apostles had betrayed Him.  Judas Iscariot had decided to sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Has anyone of us here experienced the sting of the betrayals from our spouse through adultery and the other different times when we experienced the deep woundedness of betrayal of colleagues, close friends, relatives and loved ones?

Second, knowing that all His followers need to be strengthened spiritually, Jesus offered His Body and Blood, in the form of Bread and Wine at the Last Supper to His apostles.  Then Jesus prophesied, “All of you will lose faith in me; for when the ‘Shepherd is struck, the sheep will be scattered . . .” 
Have we not experienced the weakening and even the “lost our faith in Jesus when we encounter pain and fear in the crises of life like suddenly discovering that we are retrenched from our job, or that we have a very serious illness? 

Third, then we have Peter professing with great courage and confidence that he would rather die than deny Jesus, even if others would deny him?  Yet, we know that when it was pointed out that he was one of Jesus’ disciples, out of fear for his life, he ended up denying that he knew Jesus? 
Have we too not been over protective of ourselves at the expense of our faith in Jesus, like compromising on the practice of our faith and not defending the moral teachings of our faith and condoning pre-marital relationships, contraception and different forms of killing? 

Fourth, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing the extreme and cruel suffering that He has to go through, prayed, “Father, if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, Your Will be done!” 
How many of us have remained faithful, regardless of the trials that we faced in our faith?  Have we been firm in our faith like, an unwed mother upholding God’s Will of preserving life by keeping her baby in spite of the shame and stress she is subjected to, rather than aborting her child? 

Fifth, although Jesus was perfectly innocent, He was condemned by the crowd (who were instigated by the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees), for blasphemy, and who rather chanted the release of a murderer Barabbas out of jealousy, pride and greed for power, just because Jesus proclaimed the Truth that He is the Son of God? 
Have we experienced the deep pain of being condemned by people especially by those who are close to us, out of jealousy, envy and pride?  How do you think Jesus felt, when all He did was to proclaim the Truth of His Father’s Will to save all peoples?

Sixth: Pilate was a coward who preferred to protect his own welfare instead of releasing Jesus whom He knew was innocent; so, he released Barabbas.  Moreover, to add injury to insult, the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus and spat on His face. 
Have we also not done this to Jesus through our sinful ways of upholding the evils of the secular world that dilutes and destroys the Truth of the Gospel of Christ, by promoting and engaging in the evils of immoral living and destroying the sacredness of life, vocation and marriage? 

Seventh: While hanging on the Cross, numbed from the cruel and excruciating tortures and about to die, the crowds, the chief priests and scribes mocked and jeered at Jesus, “If you are God’s Son, come down from the Cross!  He saved others, can He not save Himself?”  
The sin and evil destruction in this world have no limits: families are destroyed, countries are ravaged by wars, refugees wander helplessly and hopelessly in danger of further persecution; millions of lives are condemned by unjust structures that silence the innocent poor and powerless and suffer in misery like Jesus . . . Do we do anything to help reduce the sufferings of people in the world or do we mock and jeer at these innocent people by condoning the evil and injustices of this world? 

Finally, Jesus cries out in extreme anguish, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani . . . My God, my God, why have you deserted me . . . and then He yielded up His Spirit . . . and died. . . the centurion seeing what happened proclaimed, “In Truth this was a Son of God.” 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus persevered to the end in fulfilling His Father’s Will so that all can be saved.  Do we also persevere and remain obedient to our Father’s Will when we are tested in different ways . . . and more particularly when we are facing certain crises in our lives? 

Do we exclaim “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me . . . in our cry of anguish and pain, yet remain faithful to God because, like Jesus who cried out in anguish on the Cross before He died, was quoting Psalm 22 and expressing His certitude and absolute confidence that His Father will not abandon Him, but will always give Him the needed strength to remain faithful to His Will? 

In conclusion, my sisters and brothers in Christ, we see how Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, is not a God who lord over us, but on the contrary, love and serve us so totally and unconditionally, that He willingly experienced the great human sufferings of: betrayal from Judas, denial from Peter the leader of His flock; condemnation from the crowd, chief priests and scribes even though He was innocent.  And finally, Jesus even accepted the most cruel and excruciating suffering of being Crucified like a criminal in public . . . just because He claimed that He is indeed the Son of God . . .

Do we not all see the Truth of the Gospel, and also experience how even as we fail Jesus daily in so many ways, yet Jesus remains Merciful, Forgiving and Faithful to us at all times?   Spend some time reflecting on this today.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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