Monsignor Patrick Perez – Passion Sunday
March 17, 2013
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
“He That Is of God, Heareth the Words of God”
Just a few words this morning – there is a line from the gospel today which explains a lot. You know, a lot of times we wonder why we come across such opposition to things, right? We try explaining the situation about why we are doing what we are doing to somebody. And we think we are giving them a good and reasonable explanation for the things, and they simply think we’re nuts or look at us kind of crazy. Well, remember, I’ve always explained it by; There’s two kinds of people in the world. This is good stuff to live by, two kinds of people in the world, only two kinds, the ones who get it and the one who don’t. Okay? Sometimes you can’t say any more than that. But, Our Lord makes a point. He said, “He that is of God heareth the words of God”, meaning, if somebody is truly of God, then they hear the truth and they accept the truth.
Passion is, To Suffer
Now, that is only part of what I wanted to say, although that would be enough for meditation for quite a while. As you are aware by the coverings on all the images in the church, this is Passion Sunday, the beginning of the short little season called Passiontide, or Passion Time, you could call it, in more modern English. And Passiontide is from today until Easter, basically, two weeks, a short liturgical season.
Now, the word Passion comes from the Latin word meaning to suffer or suffering. You know, we have different meanings of the word “passion”. Usually it was like a crime of passion, or somebody is very passionate. But all those are just loosely related to the actual root of the word which is “to suffer”. And this is called Passiontide because the concentration of all the liturgies from now until Easter is on the suffering of our Lord. The statues and images are covered because after this point in the scriptures, Our Lord walked no more in public, but went about at night because His time had not yet come. And the church deemed it proper that since the Master was in hiding that the servants – that is, the saints and other ones – would be in hiding as well in imitation of their Master.
So, this period is about suffering. Now, suffering is not and never has been popular. What is suffering in the first place? Suffering is any real result of original sin and our own doings that causes pain or even inconvenience. Sometimes it is short, and sometimes it goes on for a long time. But, basically it could be pain, it could be inconvenience, it could be – and by inconvenience, a multitude of things are covered: loss of health; inability to do things; printers going south on you because of the printing demons, and things like that. These are all sufferings, anything that we find unpleasant or inconvenient or painful. And it isn’t popular, except with the saints. And I think as much as being about the sufferings of Our Lord during this period, it’s about suffering in general and our relationship to suffering.
There are three ways of approaching suffering. Most of the world takes way number one: it’s
the enemy, I reject it. And they have a broad definition of suffering. You know, nothing approaching the passion of Christ. Look at, for example, the number of divorces we have in the world. Some women, if you do anything short of worship them day or night, consider that suffering. And as soon as the worshiping stops, well, it’s all over. And it’s like, well, what about the better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health part? As I said, most of us aren’t into suffering, but if anybody here has been married at least 30 years, then some of us are. But, in the best way possible, in the way that Christ was, in a salvific suffering. So there’s the first, rejected. Suffering is the enemy. This is most of the world. They do everything they can to squirm out of every kind of suffering, and, in fact, things that are fairly nominal and negligible are defined as suffering all of a sudden. You know, people have a very low threshold for suffering because they have no patience for the most part in the world. Okay, so that’s one kind.
The second kind is they are strange bedfellows with suffering, meaning they suffer and they kind of ignore it. Well, I can’t get rid of this so I’m going to do my best to put up with it and to ignore it. That’s way number two. Now, by the way, then I’m talking about suffering, I mean the kind that comes our way either sent by Our Lord or allowed by Him, but that we can’t do really anything about within the range of morality. And every one of us has some kind of suffering that we cannot within the range of morality do anything about, in that sense. You know, I’m not saying that if we step on a nail we should stay there. That’s not the thinking. What I mean is, Our Lord will allow or send us suffering and it is something that we cannot get out from under. And that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about, the inevitable suffering in life that comes our way. So, we have those who reject it, which is most of the world, and those who just make strange bedfellows of it. They don’t like it but they have to put up with it and so they do. And that’s the end of that.
But the third is the way of the saints, that we embrace the suffering. You know, if you truly acknowledge that this suffering comes to us from Our Lord, then you have to love it in a way, you have to embrace it. You have to see it for what it is which is a stepping stone to heaven for us. And that takes an awful lot to get to that point. But we say it every day. You know, “O, Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer thee all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings……” Okay, did you hear yourself? Hello – Morning Offering, “I offer you my prayers, works, joys –“ oh, yeah, the sufferings part at the end of it. I forgot about that, right. I usually do things in three, and when there are four on the list, I get confused. Well, the fourth is we offer our sufferings. These can be so many different things.
Now, how do we know that either God sends them or allows them? Because there’s no third choice; everything in the world happens because God causes it immediately to happen or lets it happen. Okay? Everything. What’s the third choice? There’s something that God doesn’t know about and, therefore, does not allow, it gets around His radar somehow?
So we have, then, the example of Our Lord during Passiontide. You know, St. Augustine said that – and I’m boiling it down because St. Augustine always said things in volumes, not in sentences so much. But, boiling it down, he said, “Friends, how could you complain about anything, because everything that could happen to you happened to our Divine Savior” and worse, really. You know, even the worse suffering we can have on earth, physical suffering, protracted terminal illnesses or such, are not what Our Lord suffered, not even a degree of that. Why? Because He was God become man, took on human flesh, and He willingly suffered these things for our salvation. So there’s a matter of exponents between any suffering we can do and what He did.
To Embrace Suffering – the Human Ideal; the Divine Mandate
By the way, in your spiritual activities, there has always been this bracelet, this shirt and this phrase that I find completely repugnant and was like, What Would Jesus Do, you know, the WWJD kind of thing. Well, that’s a horrible question, because you are asking yourself, okay, what would God do and I should do the same thing? Well, not exactly. The question should be, What Did Jesus Do? Because we are called to imitate Him, but we can’t imitate Him a hundred percent. We are not God, we are human. So we look at what did Jesus do because that was the example for our salvation. And, as you will see in the readings of Passiontide, He took the most outrages insults to Himself and to His Divinity. Look in the gospel today. They accused Him of having a demon; they accused him of being a Samaritan, which to a Jew was an awful thing. It’s like, I don’t even think we have any equivalent, to tell you the truth, in our slurs of today. Maybe in some ethnicities there is one. It’s like telling a perfectly good earthling that there they are a Martian and green with tentacles or something like that, and no morals whatsoever. That’s how they looked on the Samaritans. And He answered their objections for their salvation. He didn’t get mad at them; He didn’t curse them like the fig tree or something like that. He answered them with the answers of salvation. And in the end we look at it and we see His suffering even in the words of His own people.
So, my dear faithful, if we are not to the point of accepting and embracing suffering, which is a big step, we have to kind of ask ourselves “Why?”. How do we treat suffering? Do we come in to the first class of those who simply try to get rid of it; do we go to the second who make strange bedfellows of it and treat it like an irritant that we are going to ignore, or do we embrace it and thank the Lord for it? If we are not to that third point, we have to examine our lives because that comes under the gift of the Holy Ghost, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, called long-suffering. If we are not long-suffering, if we have a short fuse, if we try to get rid of all suffering instead of seeing it as our stepping stone to heaven, then it’s possible that we are not receiving the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost because we are not doing enough praying, or we are not in the state of sanctifying grace, or whatever. Because, remember, if you are in the state of sanctifying grace for a long enough period, you manifest the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Ghost. It is inevitable.
So, the Church, then, gives us this opportunity to look at our lives in view of the sufferings of Our Lord which continue for us on into Easter Sunday. And we would do well to make fruitful use of those. Read the readings over and over again and examine our lives in light of the ideal.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.