Sunday, March 20, 2016

My God, My God, Why...? - Homily for Palm Sunday

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Most of us have felt these words. Feeling that God is absent; that we are alone; that things are not going right—and where is God?

The reality is, however: He has never abandoned us. “Even though a mother forget her own child, I will never forget you” (Is 49:15), says the Lord. And, again, as Jesus ascends into heaven, He says, “And lo, I am with you until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). We have not been abandoned; Jesus loves us.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his timeless spiritual work, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, writes that Jesus loves us more than He suffers. St. Alphonsus notes [in summary]:

If Jesus had to endure the sufferings of the crucifixion just for you, He would have done it. Or, more, if Jesus had to endure the crucifixion 1,000 times—and just for you—He would have done so, because He loves you more than He suffers. Indeed, if it would have been required that Jesus suffer the cross every day until the very end of time, and just for you, He would have done it.

Because He loves you. And will never abandon you.

*          *          *

If we are really honest, we must admit that we are the ones who so often abandon Jesus. Our sins, our forgetfulness, our busy-ness… We are the ones whose love is hot, then cold—and colder still when He gives us the sufferings of the Cross. We blame Him, instead of seeing the chance to join in a love like His; that is, a love even unto death. And even then, we when are blaming Him, He's holding us, never abandoning us.

So often, I look at the crucifixion from a third-person perspective: over there, there are the soldiers, they are crucifying Jesus. But, the reality is, I am the one holding the nail. I am the one swinging the hammer. I am the one who has placed the cross on Jesus’ shoulders and crowned Him with thorns.

And even then, Jesus has not abandoned me. As I'm sinning, He's praying for me: “Father, forgive them…” Because He loves me.

*          *          *

So here we are in Holy Week in the Year of Mercy. If ever there was a time for us to go to confession and to receive God's merciful love, this would be it. Whether you have been a year away or forty years away, don’t miss this chance. Tomorrow and Tuesday, all of us priests at St. Joe’s will be in the confessional from 4pm until we keel over.

And it’s going to be joyful. You will be like the one who asked Jesus simply to “Remember me.” Do you remember what happened next? Jesus looked at him, forgave the thief’s sins, and then promised him: “Amen, I say to you: today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

That's what Jesus says to us. You will be with me. I will never abandon you.

May your Holy Week be blessed and the mercy of God be yours.

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