Opposites rule our life. Failure and success, pleasure and pain, agony and ecstasy toss us around. Life often seems a struggle to maintain the balance between the pattern of sunny days and dark nights, bright hopes and lonely frustrations, sinful pressures and holy longings. Now the big question: Are we forever condemned to this dichotomous destiny? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
The gospel message is clear that it is through these oscillations that the Holy Spirit is working in us. Suffering has always been a part and parcel of our earthly sojourn. The difference however is that with the Calvary event all of us are brought to the saving shadow of the Cross. It is indeed the pattern of death and resurrection that is being played out in our lives. The great hope of this saving pattern is clearly manifested in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. The three occasions Jesus predicted His imminent Passion and Death, He concluded that He will be raised up to glory. “Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things… and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Matthew 16:21)
St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is in control of this saving pattern in our own lives leading it all to the same glorious end. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because ofHis Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11) This is the basis of the Christian hope that should inspire and strengthen us at every moment of our struggle – a hope that will sustain us in patience for the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us. It is in this context that Pope Benedict XVI in his first Encyclical exhorted all those who believe in Jesus Christ to be patient with God.
“The one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13)
Perhaps the one gospel account that highlights what patience with God requires is that of the Canaanite woman who seeks a healing for her daughter (Matthew 15:22-28). When Jesus was in the pagan territory of Tyre and Sidon, this non-Jewish woman came to Jesus pleading for mercy for her daughter who was sick. Jesus, we are told did, not even care to look at her or to respond to her. The disciples were amazed at the cold indifference of the Master in the face of human misery. They came recommending her case, requesting Jesus to have mercy on her. But Jesus responded by saying that He would have nothing to do with her for she was not a part of the select group of Israel that He was sent to minister to. This response again must have left the disciples bewildered for they had with their own eyes seen Jesus compassionate and ministering to even to the pagans. The woman refusing to be dissuaded persists in seeking mercy on her dau asted but have an eternal value. We can contribute our sufferings to the salvation of our fellow men when we offer our brokenness to the Cross of Christ.
St. Luke in the Resurrection narrative gives a detailed account of the journey of the two disciples, Cleopas and his companion, who were retreating from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). It was indeed a withdrawal in despair. They had come to Jerusalem to meet Jesus and had committed their lives to Him, with great expectations. “We had hoped that He would establish the kingdom”, they said. They suddenly found themselves thrust in the dark valley of the shadow of the cross of Calvary. They had given up on their Master altogether. “Our chief priests and rulers both handed Him over to sentence of death and crucified Him…it is now the third day since this took place.” The memories of the horrific death of the Master were fresh in their minds. They felt great angry and yet could only stand helpless before the unjust and cruel designs of men in power. They were venting their frustrations about their own inability to move even a little finger in defense of Him on whom they had placed all their hopes for the future. In short they had failed just as all around them had failed them!
This Gospel account typifying the Resurrection theme generates hope as it presents in their miserable situationthe Risen Lord was Himself present to them listening to them patiently. “While they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.”Without condemning them He led them gently to a clear understanding of the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection. “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” He later broke the bread and fed them with Himself in the Holy Eucharistic experience. Being rid of all the burden of their hearts, they rejoiced exceedingly and became powerful witnesses of the Glory of the Lord. This is the Promise of Easter to every one of the disciples of Jesus! His Glorious Presence will accompany us even in the most painful and distressing moments of life. Though we may imagine that we are helpless and are unable to comprehend the vicissitudes life, we can remain in the assurance that God has not lost sight of us. He walks with us! He is in control having defeated death and darkness.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus, we glorify You for Your death and resurrection. You gave Your Life for love of us. There is nothing that You held back from us. Yet in the moments of pain and failure, we became desperate imagining that life had failed us and that You too had abandoned us. We rebelled that You should punish us. Today we look to You, Jesus, innocent You were, yet You took up the penalty meant for us that in all our trials we may be vindicated. We thank You for the crosses of our life that mould us into Your perfect image. You transform that very cross into a crown. By the cross, we know that You are closest to us and You will make our sufferings and our very life into a blessing. As we tread this difficult path, we pray may Your Spirit lead us to hear Your voice and see Your Face and our hearts will burn with joy.