Reflection for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
The tragedy of the cross of the Christ lies not in his sufferings and death. His singular, perfect and true sacrifice is in fact, a victory of selfless love over selfishness, tepidity and hatred; a triumph of willful obedience and total surrender over the pride of disobedience, rebellion and sin. His glorious resurrection is the definitive conquest of life over death; of faith and hope over doubt and despair; of the light of freedom and truth dawning over the darkness of bondage and deceptions of evil.
Indeed, everything about our Lord’s earthly existence is a suffering for a cause – from the humility of his Incarnation, to the anonymity of his carpenter’s life until his baptism by John, to the hardships and disappointments of his ministry until its dramatic conclusion in his dolorous Passion at Calvary. Every moment of Jesus’ sadness, frustration, anxiety and pain heralded the kingdom that is to come, the reign of Abba, a world of authentic justice and sustainable harmony; every mystery of his infinite divinity caught up in the messiness of our humanity in a strangely beautiful way, is a triumph for each and all of us.
The tragedy lies in the fact that very few of those who witnessed his cries of agony as he hung up naked and nailed to the cross, actually understood what it meant. Many of those who were there on that fateful day would have been mere curious onlookers; or disciples in fear for their lives at the sight of their persecuted Master; or willing participants who may have joined in the fray to win favor with the Romans or the religious authorities. Was it not clear that Jesus was being sent to his death for uplifting the downtrodden from an unjust forsakenness; for teaching us that God never willed for anyone to be left behind, for showing that simple sharing is the only way to an elusive peace?
But for us living today, is it not clear that the shedding of innocent blood must take place in the hands of the guilty in order for a transformative liberation to be achieved? Is it not clear that the emptying of the self must come first before its fulfillment? Is it not clear that sorrow makes joy what it is, that defeat makes glory immaculate? Will we perpetuate the tragedy of the cross?
Our first challenge is to have faith. For those of use who did not see his crucifixion, we are exhorted to believe. Do we believe in his sufferings as an unflinching labor of his unconditional love? Do we believe in his sufferings to be the saving actions of a compassionate Father, who did not wait to be appeased rather taking the initiative to restoring us as heirs of his kingdom of forever?
Our second challenge for those who believe, is to love. We are dared to love with the love of the Christ, the same selfless love that impelled him to dedicate himself to the altar of righteousness. James reminds us that a faith which cannot or will not love, is a dead faith. What use is our being inspired by his love, if we cannot or will not express it with and for others? We are dared to love to beget more love, to the point of becoming living crucifixes.
Christo confixus sum cruci. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2: 20) Paul left us with the exhortation that suffering with Christ and suffering for Christ is a path for holiness, leading to an intimate union with the divine reality, that we become that same reality enveloping and transfiguring human reality. We become his Body, his hands and feet propagating his mission on earth to establish the rule of the Spirit in the final epoch.
May we all become oblates for his love, praising and thanking him with the prayer of Francis of Assisi:
My Lord Jesus Christ, I pray you to grant me two graces before I die.
The first is that during my life I may feel in my soul and in my body as much as possible, that pain which you, dear Jesus sustained in the hour of your most bitter Passion.
The second is that I may feel in my heart, as much as possible, that excessive love with which you, oh Son of God, were inflamed in willingly enduring such suffering for us sinners.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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