Today’s reflection is for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, April 5, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
As COVID-19 news continues to pour in, and as the death toll continues to rise, as essential personnel go without essential protective gear, as shelves continue to go bare, and as politicians point fingers instead of supporting the people they are sworn to serve, the words on Jesus’ lips today seem more relevant than ever, namely, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” quoting Psalm 22. Jesus knows the love his father has for him, knows that all his actions bring glory to his father’s name He prays often and teaches others how to pray, and knows for sure his father would never forsake him. Then why the question at all?
Our second reading from St. Paul to the Philippians is helpful here, namely, Jesus wasn’t just fully God, he was also fully man. And as a man, he felt abandoned. As the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, clearly teaches, “The Son of God…worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved.” (qtd. in the C.C.C. 470). Jesus was human, and was suffering, and found himself alone on the cross—and he cries out for his Father and God. Philippians reads, “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death.” (2:6-8)
As we journey through this extraordinary Lenten Season, amidst world-wide suffering and death, uncertainty, scarcity, and fear, we are more mindful than ever that some of those who received ashes almost 40 days ago will never receive them again. And, sadly, there are many here today who will not be here for ashes next year either. We received ashes and were told to remember, but I think many have already forgotten. We were told, “Remember, from dust you have come and to dust you shall return.” So what should we remember? And why remember it?
Of course, the answer seems obvious: Remember that we are mortal and that we are not going to live forever. Roger. Solid copy. Got it. But that’s not all. We should also remember what Jesus remembered while he was in such agony in the garden, as he made his way to the cross, and while he was lifted up.
First off, yes, he was human and his life on this earth would come to an end. We should never forget that. But more than that, being found human, he humbled himself and became obedient even to the point of death. If we don’t remember anything else but that we are human, and being human demands humility and obedience to God, we would be doing well!
But there’s more to remember. What if we could always remember what Jesus absolutely knew? What would our life, and even our death, look like if we could remember God’s love for us? What if we could remember that everything we do or fail to do brings glory to the Father’s name. What if we could remember to pray often, and both teach and encourage others to pray during difficult times? What if we could remember that despite all of life’s pain, and suffering, and sadness, and loss, that God will NEVER forsake us? That would be amazing, and it would change the way we experience everything that happens to us in this life.
As COVID-19 continues to claim lives, and maybe those whom we love, and as the world reels into madness, let us always remember these basic truths of our faith: 1. We will physically die. 2. Remain humble and obedient. 3. God loves us. 4. Give glory to God always. 5. Pray and teach others. 6. God will NEVER forsake nor abandon us no matter how we feel. 7. God will raise us up.
We are an Easter people. That’s the “why” of remembering. He rose, and we will rise. As Teresa of Avila said, “Remember that everything soon comes to an end…and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.”