In today’s readings we see the man we are meant to follow at his lowest ebb. First, he enters Jerusalem on the back of a humble donkey, hardly the ride of a King. Despite the hosannas and the palms laid before him, in a few days, manipulated by the power brokers and influencers of the day, the same people are shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
The Church’s Preferential Option for the Poor teaches that preference must be given to the poor and the powerless of society. This practice is expressed in the Gospels and in the cries of the prophets of the Old Testament. But most vividly, in his passion and death, Christ personifies for us the suffering of all those who are mistreated and rejected by society.
In today’s reading of the Passion, we see Jesus suffer every kind of torture and injustice. He is a member of a marginalized and defeated people, looked down upon by the powerful Romans. One of his beloved Apostles betrays him. The rest are unable to provide comfort to him as he faces his death in the Garden. His friends abandon him when the soldiers take him away, fearing for their own safety. He suffers the injustice of being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death by his own people, the leaders of his faith. They turn him over to the Romans who slap, spit at, flog and crown him with thorns. On his way to his death, He is made to carry his cross, the object of his torture and execution.
Is it any wonder that he cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
This is the man we are called to follow. Jesus was a miracle worker who healed the sick, fed the five thousand, and befriended the outcast. We are called to do likewise. But we are also called to carry our own cross, be it poor health, loneliness, poverty, failure. Through it all we must remember to rely on God, just as Jesus did. God will not forsake us.
Many of us work to lessen the suffering of others in some way. At times, this work is frustrating, exhausting and disappointing. By recognizing the face of the suffering Christ in all who suffer, and the face of the healing Christ in all who heal, we can open ourselves to the transforming power of love and set about to transform the world, one encounter at a time.