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We begin the most holy of weeks

Passion Sunday Homily
St. Mary’s Cathedral
April 1, 2012       

I recently read about a dream.  It was the end of time.  Billions and billions of people were assembled on a great plain before the throne of God, waiting to be judged.  Some were fearful but others were angry.
A woman said, “How can God judge us?  What does He know about suffering?  We endured terror, beatings, torture, death.”  Then she pulled up her sleeve to show a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp on her arm.

Then a black man lowered his collar to show an ugly rope burn around his neck.  “What about this?” he asked.  “Lynched for no crime but being black.  We have suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, toiled till only death gave us release.”

Next an old woman, who struggled all her life to wipe from her memory the long-ago emotional and physical torment she suffered from an abusive husband of forty-five years--she just sobbed on judgment day.

All had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted during their lives on earth. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred. What did God know about human suffering?

They decided that God should be sentenced to live on earth - as a man.  But because He was God, they would set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help Himself. Let Him be born a Jew.  Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted so that none will know who is really His father.  Give Him work so difficult that even His family will think He is out of His mind when He tries to do it. Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends.  Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, convicted by a cowardly judge. Let Him see what it means to be terribly alone, completely abandoned by every living thing. 
Let Him be tortured and mocked. Then let Him die.  Let Him die so that there can be no doubt He died.  Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.

As each portion of the sentence was announced, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throng of people assembled.  When they had finished pronouncing sentence, a long silence ensued.  No one uttered a word.  No one moved.  For suddenly all knew.  God had already served His sentence.

Our God came to live among us.  Put God on trial if you will.  Shake your fist at Him, spit in His face, scourge Him, and finally crucify Him.  What does it matter?  It’s already been done to Him. It’s a great comfort to us to know that Christ, the innocent and sinless One, has gone down the road of suffering before us, and gone down it to the end.  On the Cross, He gathered up all human pain and made it His own.Though the road of suffering is narrow and difficult, it is not the same since Christ traveled it.  A bright light illuminates it.  And even though it leads to Calvary, it doesn’t end there.  It ends at Easter. 

Those who link their sufferings to those of Christ become a source of blessings for others, and will share Christ’s Easter glory. Indeed, personal suffering can become a journey of hope for those who believe because of the One who has walked ahead. 

Today, Passion Sunday, we begin the most holy of weeks.  Please enter the sacredness of the moment and join your parish family at the beautiful liturgies in the days ahead.  

With a deep sense of gratitude and unbridled hope, let us walk together, following Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

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