by Fr Z Ngwenya
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Readings: First reading: Is 50:4-7
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 22: 8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Second reading: Phil 2:6-11
Gospel: Mt 26: 14 – 27: 66
The whole liturgy is shrouded in a veil of suffering. In the song of the servant of Yahweh we hear: “The Lord Yahweh comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.” The figure of Yahweh’s servant surprises and shocks us for various reasons. He is an innocent man. Although having done no harm to anyone, he suffers outrages, blows and insults. He is a religious man who perceives God’s hand in the midst of all that is happening to him and feels Yahweh’s mighty strength and presence. He is a disciple of God who, getting the better of his suffering, has comforting words for the persecuted and the needy.
In the Christological hymn of the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, he tells us: “But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names.” Isn’t it true that we spontaneously see the best realisation of this figure in Jesus of Nazareth, especially during the terrible moment of his Passion? This is how the first Christians saw and thought of him, and they left an image of him for us in the liturgical hymn that Paul takes up in his Letter to the Philippians. “His state was divine, but he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.”
And in the narrative of the passion, Jesus prays to his Father: “If it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.” And the Evangelist writes that at Jesus’ death: “the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked; the rocks were split,” all signs of the manifestation of God at the end of time according to the Jewish mentality. It is important to stress that suffering is not a contradiction, an error of calculation during the act of creation, but that God is the Lord of suffering and it is faith that gives it meaning.
For the human person, suffering does not cease to have a harsh, gloomy and terrible face, but behind this mask of pain is found the beautiful, serene and joyful face of fruitful meaning, mysteriously softened. Even God himself, made man in Jesus of Nazareth, was not spared pain and suffering. This means that pain and suffering are a constitutive part of man’s historicity, his finite reality: imperfect, frail and perishable. Suffering is something inevitable, which every person has to face and accept in his/her human condition and his faith. Suffering has an extraordinary value that a person must discover. Anyone who knows how to suffer becomes more of a person and of redemptive value in God’s plan. Human suffering contributes to the redemption brought about by Jesus Christ.
Faith in God’s presence and action in moments and situations of difficulty and anguish is something very necessary and urgent. In the chaos that suffering can create, in the inner crisis of rebellion it can provoke, in the lack of control it can unleash, faith is the key that prepares and accompanies us, it instils serenity in us, it opens the door to hope for us and peacefully refers us to the Lord of life. This faith in God’s living presence during actual moments of trial and anguish, should be made visible in action. Let us pray to the Lord of love and peace to strengthen our faith in times of suffering and pain.