Palm Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-7; Phil. 2:6-11; Gospel Mark 14:1-15:47
Jesus Sufferings . . . our sufferings!?

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 25 March 2018

Today, we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.  Today, we begin our celebration of the Paschal Mystery of the Suffering, Death, Burial and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Easter.  In today’s liturgical celebration, we begin with the blessing of the palms and the procession, where we all waved our palms; symbolising Jesus’ triumphant procession of Christ as King.  We also know that this solemn entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem is also at the same time a proclamation of Passion of Christ.In today’s celebration, the Passion narratives that we participated in dramatically captures the reality of the Suffering of Jesus.  We have the scene of the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, the denials of Peter, the Trial of Jesus before Pilate and the crowds who three days earlier chanted Hosanna, King of the Jews, is now chanting “crucify Him, crucify Him,” and then jeered and mocked Him, and eventually crucified Him as a criminal for blasphemy . . . Eventually, when Jesus finally gave up His last breath, the veil of the Temple tore into two, from top to bottom, and the Roman centurion, standing in front of Jesus’ crucified body, exclaimed, “in Truth, this man is the Son of God.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Passion of Jesus, the “gloves are off” so to speak.  We encounter the Son of God, our Lord Himself, tortured cruelly and His body shredded mercilessly by His cruel enemies whose blood boiled with hatred, pride and revenge; murderously demanding for Jesus’ death through the cruel Crucifixion as a criminal. 

Yet, in the divine mystery of all of these Suffering of Jesus, the King of all kings, the Lord of our lives and the universe, Jesus submitted Himself totally and unconditionally to the Will of His Father’s mission to save all of humankind, from our sinfulness; a sinfulness (since the time of Cain and Abel), that has infected and permeated the whole of humankind; who was on the path of self-destruction and the annihilation of the intimate relationship we once had with God.In God’s infinite Mercy and Compassion; in His forgiving and unconditional Love, Jesus embraced your sins and my sins and all the sins of humankind, and willingly suffered the torturous evil of His enemies, who were blind to His Divinity, and condemned Him for blasphemy. 

In the face of such ‘blindness, obstinacy and evil’ what could Jesus do?  Jesus, as the Innocent Lamb, that is to be slayed, looked on in total silence and surrendered Himself to the lashes of the scourging that ripped off His Flesh, endured the excruciating pain of the thorns piercing into His skull, the humiliation of the spittle that splatted on His Sacred Face . . . and shouldered the mighty weight of the Cross, that crushed Him to the ground several times, before reaching the top of Calvary; only to be crucified . . . with utter Humility and submission to His Father’s Will.  This is so that His Father’s Compassionate and Forgiving Love and Mercy, can then save all of humankind from our self-destructive sinful ways.

A few days ago a mother shared with me, “when I see my teenage children do wrong . . . and are suffering from the foolish things they choose to do . . . as a mother, I suffer ten times more than what they suffer; as a mother, I am totally helpless and can only look on, cry and pray for them . . . it’s so painful to see your children do wrong and refuse to listen . . . Their usual response is, “Mom, you don’t understand, leave me alone!”  When we sin and destroy each other, and suffer the consequences, Jesus Suffers infinitely more than us . . .

The Jews rebelled and plotted to murder Jesus and condemned Him for blasphemy.  However, like the Jews, and in infinitely worse ways than our disobedient children, we often refuse to listen to Jesus, and insulate and isolate ourselves from the Truth of the Good News of Salvation.  As our children shouted “mom, you don’t understand . . . leave me alone! . . . with the Jews we too chant, “crucify Him, crucify Him!” 

For the many mothers and fathers amongst us here; even as you suffer sleepless nights and cry endlessly for your children whom you love . . . we also know, that very often, in our helplessness, pain and sorrow, we can only turn to God, and beg for His Mercy and Compassionate Love on our children and our loved ones, in the moments when we find life to be overwhelmingly painful and trying. 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, for St Ignatius of Loyola, some of the deepest spiritual encounters of Jesus were the graces of “feeling and experiencing the sufferings of Jesus, during His Passion.”  Let us not participate in the richness of this Holy Week’s liturgies and para-liturgies, as bystanders in the crowd, or simply hearing about the Sufferings of Jesus routinely and not allow the Gospel and Historical Truth of Jesus’ Suffering, Death and Resurrection, enlighten our minds and penetrate our hearts.  Let us beg God for the graces we need during this Holy Week, to have the spiritual “wisdom” to sense and experience more deeply what Jesus went through in His Suffering for us . . . and ask for the wisdom of God not to allow this Holy Week pass by, without experiencing a conversion of our hearts. 

In short, and as I conclude, let us ask God for the graces, not to chant and hail Jesus as the Lord and Saviour of our lives, superficially, and in the face of the trials and tribulations of our lives, . . . turn away from Him and the Church, and respond like the crowd who chanted and hailed Jesus as “Hosanna, King of the Jews, and three days later clamour for His Blood with, “crucify Him, crucify Him!” . . .

Yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we all want to love Jesus as fully and as faithfully as we can, yet, we also acknowledge the weaknesses of our faith, the infidelity of our commitments in love and to our families, and the “self-love and protective care we have for ourselves that so often become more important than the reality of our eternal Salvation. 

Let us pray for the wisdom to remain faithful to the Father’s Will as Jesus has shown us; an unconditional and self-less Love that is beautifully and profoundly expressed in St Ignatius’ Prayer of Generosity that says,
“Lord, teach me to be Generous,
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not the heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to seek for reward,
Save that of knowing that

(as Jesus has shown us in His Passion).  AMEN

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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