Friday, March 18, 2016

Passion Sunday Year C (Lk 22:14-23:56) My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

One of the things that I always find difficult to deal with is injustice. I think it affects most of us in the same way and the closer to home it is the harder it is to take. A few years ago I met a lady friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen for some time. She was now separated and trying to finish the house they had been both building. But she began to tell me of how the builder they were dealing with had ripped them off, but now that she was on her own he was even worse. He intimidated her, stole furniture, all kinds of things that were so wrong, and to make it worse he lived just down the street from her new house. I was so angry I could hardly contain myself, and the worst thing was that there was little I could do about it.

No doubt everyone here could tell me different stories of injustice.  It’s all around us and it seems hard to get away from it. The worst thing is that there is often little we can do about it. Why does God allow these things to go on? We say that God is all-powerful and loving; if that is so why doesn’t He intervene?

The answer, if it is an answer, is given to us in the account of the passion. The last day of Jesus’ life involved, corruption, betrayal, lies, hatred, abandonment, jealousy, torture and murder. Even the trial used to prosecute Jesus was illegal by their own law. Why didn’t God intervene? How can God allow these things to happen?

God gives us an answer, but maybe not the kind of answer that we would like. When we cry out in frustration to God, He points us to the passion of Jesus. Jesus was the only one completely innocent, who only did good during his life. Yet because of jealousy and hatred, he was set up, convicted, tortured and killed in the most brutal way.

I think that God tells us two things through the passion of Christ. Firstly God is well aware that we suffer, and suffer unjustly. God knows the pain it causes us and the frustration at often not being able to do anything about it. When we ask, ‘Why do you allow this Lord?’ God points to Jesus on the cross. For some reason suffering is part of the journey that leads us to God. ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Mt 16:24). But perhaps more important is the fact that the suffering that we go through is leading to something else.  It is a suffering that often transforms us, and it will not last forever. It will end and the whole point of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Just One, is so that we can access a life that no longer involves any suffering. That is what God promises us and God only speaks truth. That is where we have to hold on tight in hope and remember that this life is not the whole picture. If we live as if this life were everything, then we will be disappointed. But if we remember that this life is leading to something much better and that it is a time of service, then it will help us to stay close to God and not lose hope. That is the difference that our faith makes. It tells us what our life is about and the purpose of our being here.

The passion of Christ also reminds us that Jesus has experience the greatest depths of suffering, even to the point of feeling that the Father had abandoned him. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mt 27:46). For us this means that Jesus understands our worst suffering and feelings of despair or abandonment. He has been there and so we know that He is with us. We are never alone.

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