(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 16 March 2016)
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
Lent is drawing to an end; Easter is 10 days away. For prayer this morning I invite you now to close your eyes and picture Jesus at his crucifixion, hanging from the cross. As you do, I ask you to listen to this short reflection.
As Jesus hangs on his cross he obviously endures physical pain—the lashings, the long uphill climb carrying the cross, the thirst, the nails in his hands and feet, the inability to catch his breath. However, this morning I would like us to reflect on another kind of pain Jesus was enduring—a psychological and emotional pain, the pain of being rejected and feeling abandoned.
On Palm Sunday (which we commemorate this coming Sunday) Jesus enters triumphantly into Jerusalem, acclaimed as king by the crowds. On the following Thursday (Holy Thursday) Jesus, with an inkling of what was to follow, kneels at the feet of his disciples, his chosen ones, his closest friends, and washes their feet as a servant would and then celebrates Passover with them, promising them the gift of his body and blood forever.
Jesus then goes to the Garden of Olives to pray to his Father that his life might be spared—his three closest disciples are invited to pray with him but they fall asleep three times. He asks them—“Can’t you stay awake and keep me company, support me?” Another disciple approaches him, embraces him and kisses his cheek in betrayal; the soldiers surround him and bind him; his other disciples flee in fear. Jesus faces his enemies alone.
During the next hours Jesus is taken from Chief Priest to Chief Priest—accused, mocked, punished. Another disciple, Peter, stands a bit away from the action in a courtyard warming himself—Jesus can probably hear him three times denying that he even knows Jesus— betrayed by the very one he had chosen to lead the disciples. Then in front of Pilate, the Roman magistrate, Jesus, having been whipped and crowned with thorns, is shouted down by the very crowds that had acclaimed him a few days earlier: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And Pilate does order the crucifixion. Along the way to the Place of the Skull where he is to be crucified his disciples, except for John, are nowhere to be found. The crowds jeer him as he falls 3 times. On the cross the soldiers make fun of him; one of the others being crucified with him throws insults at him. Alone on the cross—betrayed by his disciples and friends—and then Jesus calls out in despair: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus experiences the ultimate abandonment — abandoned by his God.
And then, filled with the loving mercy of his God and Father, Jesus in his last words declares from the cross: “Father, forgive them, forgive all these people, for they don’t know what they are doing” and he turns to the other thief hanging beside him who has asked for forgiveness and says: “This day you will join me in paradise.” He lovingly gives his mother to the care of John, the only disciple that stayed with him, and asks his mother to care for John as they stand together at the foot of the cross. Finally, Jesus gives himself over in faith and love to his God and Father—“Into your hands I commend my spirit.”
And what about our own pains and hurts? Few, if any of us, will face a death by crucifixion, but we do hurt and we do suffer pain. How do we deal with the hurt from a friend or group of friends (or so we thought) who spread rumors or hurtful comments about us on the Internet? How do we deal with the feelings of aloneness when our “true love,” our girlfriend or boyfriend, breaks up with us or is seeing someone else behind our back? How do we face the abandonment of an older brother or sister leaving the family or a parent leaving the household or a family splitting up? All of these experiences are painful; as human persons we all experience them. And when things really get bad and we think that nothing is going right and that we are worth pretty much nothing, we might ask God—“Why me? What’s wrong with me? Why don’t you help me, love me?”
Where do we go with these deep pains? At these times we might want to give our hurt and betrayal and abandonment to Jesus. Ask him: Jesus, please carry our crosses along with your own cross—you know our hurt; you experienced our abandonment. And then we might ask Jesus: Please fill us with the mercy and forgiveness that filled you that day on the cross.
As we near Holy Week and the remembrance of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his washing of feet and blessing of bread and wine, his suffering and death, his glorious resurrection, let’s not hesitate to bring the joys and hurts of our own lives to Jesus. In that way maybe on Easter, more than Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies, we too like Jesus might experience the exhilaration of new life and new hope.
Let us pray in the words of Jesus on the cross: Into your hands, Father, we commend our spirit, we give over our lives with all the good and the bad, the happy and the sad that our lives now experience. Amen.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.
Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC