The opening prayer of Palm Sunday makes a lot of sense if we want to benefit spiritually from this Holy Week: Almighty ever-living God, who as an example of humility for the human race to follow caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross, graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering and so merit a share in his Resurrection….
This Holy Week we should learn from Christ the lesson of patient suffering lest we waste our share of suffering without helping the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church.
Occasionally, we hear from the pulpit about carrying our cross, about the inevitability of suffering (due mostly to sinning); we even hear mentioned also something that sounds like that there is value in suffering and that suffering can have meaning. We listen patiently as the priest talks about all these concepts; we assume they are part of what we can expect to hear in church. But they are all stored in a small corner of our minds. Chances are that they will not be embraced by us at heart level.
Whenever we, personally, or one of our loved one, get tested by the trials of life or by a terrible illness we might tend to rebel or react in a way that is unbecoming of a disciple of Christ. We are not much different than the Jews and the Gentiles of old. Frankly, I do not expect that we should to be looking at our cross the way St. Paul looked at his…
- 1 Corinthians 1:23 But we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.
- Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ.
- Galatians 6:14 But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
- Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.
It would be rewarding enough if we would accept the pain and suffering that come our way without us looking for them. It would be “sick” to look for suffering and pain. And without reaching the heroic point of rejoicing in our sufferings, as St. Paul did, we should accept our cross and, in the help of the Holy Spirit, carry it with trust and perseverance behind Christ Jesus.
With this docile and serene attitude our suffering would be given the same value of the suffering of Christ himself! With our suffering we would contribute to the general well-being of the whole Church.
Our acceptance of the cross would make lighter the cross that others have to carry, especially if those carrying a heavy cross are innocent children struck by the irrational randomness of sin. And our serenity would give courage to those who are staggering under too heavy a load.
Yes: this Holy Week can be grace-filled and we would have good reasons to hope to merit a share in Christ’s Resurrection.