Monday, April 10, 2006

Passion Sunday: The Turning of the Tide

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. addresses The Turning of the Tide

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Two names for the same day: Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. I propose a third name: Fickle Sunday. For the same crowd that was cheering during the parade was jeering a few days later. They’d been wowed by His sermons, fed with loaves and fishes, healed of their diseases, delivered of their demons. But as soon as the tide began to turn, so did they. Their cries of “Hosanna” turned to shouts of a very different kind: “Crucify Him!”

Of course, He was not surprised in the least. The Gospels tell us that He knew the human mind and heart all too well. He was not fooled by all the acclamations and fanfare. Flattery could not swell His head. He had no illusions of grandeur or ambition for worldly glory. In fact, our second reading tells us that He had willingly emptied Himself of heavenly glory in pursuit of His true passion — His Father's will and our salvation, toward which He “set His face like flint.” He was on a mission and nothing would deter Him. He barreled through barriers that usually stop us dead in our tracks — fear of ridicule, fear of suffering, abandonment by our closest companions. He was willing to endure the sting of sin to blot out sin, and was eager to face death in order to overcome it.
The greatest inspirations of human experience are not the orations of preachers or statesmen. They are the acts of unrelenting compassion that transform our lives.

Why is Christ's passion the quintessential inspiration of the human experience? It is the ultimate expression of his love for us. He, one with the undying Father and Eternal Spirit, chose to share our human vulnerability to the end. He, the antithesis of sin, became the negation of his very self in order to draw out our own sinfulness like poison from a wound. He did not refuse suffering; he embraced it. No longer could any of us say that we worshipped an aloof God. Our God gave us his very life so that we could experience eternity with him. He poured out his life upon the cross so that he could bathe us in the Grace only his shed blood could give. Once he had destroyed death forever, only Ressurection remained. Through him, we now may use our own life's end as the pivot to eternity, the doorway beyond our own negation. He has paid the wages of sin for us, for we could not hope to pay it ourselves.

Alive in his grace, we live a new and more authentic life. We see and feel, love and experience everything differently. We find that our heart naturally goes out to those most in need of our compassion. We see the alleviation of others' burdens not as an inconvenience, but as the entirely necessary help we must offer. We can't help ourselves; we must pour out our own lives for the sake of our brothers.

When we respond to the grace of our Lord, compassion is truly born. Pray for the day when all will do so. Work to see that day comes soon. How? By following the example of our Master, and pouring out our lives in love for the benefit of the neediest among us. What are we waiting for?