Palm Sunday of the
Passion of the Lord

April 9, 2017
Fr. José Maria Cortex, F.S.C.B.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

This week, I read a very interesting article by David Brooks in the New York Times about happiness and suffering.[1] The author maintains that we live in a culture obsessed with happiness. Despite this, he says we need to remember that coming to terms with suffering is instructive to the soul.

We live in a culture that constantly promotes searching for the comfortable and deals badly with the contradiction of sacrifice.

Brooks writes: “Happiness wants you to think about maximizing your benefits. Difficulty and suffering send you on a different course.” Then he explains where the experience of suffering sends us: “[…] First, suffering drags you deeper into yourself. […] Then, suffering gives people a more accurate sense of their own limitations, what they can control and cannot control.” The author then says something really interesting: “[…] people in the midst of difficulty begin to feel a call.” He concludes this thought as follows: “The right response to this sort of pain is not pleasure. It’s holiness.”

We began our celebration with the blessing of the palm branches. Then we listened to the proclamation of the Gospel describing Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. The crowds acclaimed Jesus enthusiastically. It was a joyful and triumphant moment. In ancient times, palm branches were a symbol of triumph and victory, peace and plenty.

Suddenly, the liturgy changed. We shift from the crowds who acclaimed the son of David to the crowds who asked for Jesus’ death: “Let him be crucified.” From a moment of popular acclamation, we passed to a moment of general rejection. We moved from the glory to the cross.

How did Jesus experience suffering? He gave his life as an act of love. The second reading says: “He emptied himself […] he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). Jesus knew that his suffering was for our good and for the glory of the father. Through his suffering, he saved the world. Jesus showed us that suffering only makes sense if it is an act of love.

For Jesus, happiness and suffering are not in contradiction. The latter is necessary to achieve the former. Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem is not in contradiction with his crucifixion. Instead, the joyful triumphalism of the beginning anticipates the final glory to be revealed with the Resurrection of Christ.

As we start Holy Week, let us pray that these days may be a time for increasing our awareness of God’s infinite love, a time for understanding that we are really saved by the Cross of Our Lord.  Amen.

[1] Brooks, David, “What Suffering Does,” New York Times, April 7, 2014.