Good Friday 14 April 2017
His Greatest Suffering?
You can never get used to it completely. But one thing a priest is called on to do almost constantly is to minister to people who are in pain, some of whom are dying. It is a grace to do that, but it is very difficult as well. That ministry does help you see the agony of Jesus in a different light. He underwent great suffering for us. He embraced our humanity fully! In undergoing what he did he united himself with humanity through great human suffering, and perhaps the worst kind: that which we inflict on one another. How fitting that to redeem you and me he went through all he did.
The suffering of Jesus was tremendous. He was flogged with a horrific instrument of torture. A crown of thorns was driven into his head. He was made to carry a heavy cross the long journey to Golgotha. He was stripped of his clothes. He was nailed to the cross. Tortured by soldiers, he was jeered by passersby. He lived on in agony until he at the appointed time, and then gave up his spirit. But, tell me, what agony of Jesus was the greatest? In what did he suffer most?
I think that perhaps Jesus suffered most the mental and emotional and spiritual anguish that were his when he was abandoned by his friends. They all ran away and out of fear refused to stand by him in his hour of need. From their professions as fishermen or tax collectors he had called them to follow. He spent 3 years with them teaching, slowly manifesting himself, sharing with them his ministry and his charisms, sharing with them his bread, his prayer. That they might have his presence still when he was gone, he shared with them his body and blood. But still when he was arrested and condemned, fearing for their lives they fled. He was left alone. Abandoned by almost all! The pain he experienced in the face of that truth must have been grave!
Have you ever pondered how many still abandon Jesus today? Think for a moment about Mass attendance in the United States. Perhaps 40 years ago it was thought that 75% of Catholics attended Sunday Mass. Then it was 60%, and a little later 50. Today it is estimated that about 25% of all Catholics attend Mass each weekend. What a slap across the face of Jesus, as Catholics choose to ignore his instruction to eat his body and drink his blood, and his invitation to partake so that they might have life in them. A direct slap across the face it is!
One of my own worst fears is that too many Catholics who still believe have started slowly to do the same thing. That is when people give themselves easy passes and skip Mass right now. I have to cook for the family picnic tomorrow! Aunt Sue is coming to visit and I have to entertain. There’s an important football game on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday is my day for camp chores. The kids have a dance rehearsal. There’s a hockey practice when we usually go. I don’t like the music. I’m tired of the priest. He’s old and doesn’t say anything anyway. Maybe they’re all true. But is that really the point?
Setting aside for no sound reason the Lord’s invitation to share in his Eucharist is a slap across the face of Jesus. It is a blow delivered still by those who abandon him today. He suffered through the abandonment of disciples at Calvary. His suffering then also came from the believers who walk away from the Eucharist and this intimate encounter with the holy, eternal God act now. For their action is very much the same as the acts of those who scampered away 2,000 years ago!
How I pray that we as a Church wake up to the truth of what we are given and of what we sometimes refuse while many still have faith!
My Jesus, my faith is sometimes weak. I have questions, I have doubts, I just don’t understand. There are problems in this world I wish you would resolve. There are roadblocks in my life I wish you would remove. But through it all, I believe in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Make my faith strong! Never, dear Lord, allow me to abandon you as so many have by setting aside your invitation to share in the Eucharist.
You are the Bread of Life! You have given me your body and blood that I may have life. Above all let me treasure that gift and receive it worthily each week in the midst of the Church. For those who eat your body and drink your blood in faith, the fullness of life is here among us. With love for you and hope, again I pray, in Jesus’ Name. AMEN!
Msgr. John R. Murphy
Visitation Rectory, Norfolk, NY