Sunday, 5 April 2020

Sadness, Darkness, Stay with Me: Passion Sunday

Mt 26:14-27:66
Today, for the observance of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, I want to connect 3 details that Matthew’s account of the Passion gives us:
(1) sadness, (2) darkness, (3) and, the Lord’s call to His disciples: “stay awake with me”(Mt 26:38).

When I read that lie about there being “darkness over all the land”(Mt 27:45),
I, obviously, thought of the feeling of darkness over all the world today.
Many of us spent the first week of this lockdown feeling a little unreal, but perhaps even enjoying the sunshine and change of routine.
But as time has gone on, and we hear more and more reports of deaths,
and get more frustrated locked up,
and hear more analysis of the long-term economic suffering expected,
it’s hard not to have a sense of ‘darkness’.

So, my first observation is to connect this with the darkness in the Passion narrative.
Darkness is real now;
darkness was real then.
God was in the midst of that darkness,
and He is, though we don’t see how, in the midst of our darkness today.

My second observation is to note the “sadness” (Mt 26:38) of the Lord.
How does God feel about our situation?
Is He remote and indifferent?
No, He feels “sorrowful and troubled”(Mt 26:37).
This is a pivotal part of Christian revelation of what God is like:
The gods of the pagans were fickle and unreliable.
The gods of the philosophers were removed and indifferent.
But the one true God revealed in Christ:
He cares;
He is involved;
and, He took flesh that He might feel with us.

A third and final observation, about how we are to respond.
God knows what we are like, God knows that are weak.
He said to Peter, James and John, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”(Mt 6:41).
He said to them, “stay awake, and keep watch with me”(Mt 26:38).
Surely, He says something similar to us too today.
As we are tempted to be fearful,
or bored ,
or irritable
-or have various odd reactions with the stress.
Let us stay with Him, let us not inwardly drift away, inwardly go to sleep.

So, to bring that together, let’s think of the cry of the Lord Jesus from the Cross, “My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?”(Mt 27:46).
The people didn’t understand what He meant.
Some thought He was crying for Elijah.
The Roman soldiers thought He was “a” son of a god, but not THE Son of God.
In truth, however, as the Scripture scholars tell us, He was quoting the start of Psalm 22, which we thus use as the responsorial psalm at Mass today.
That psalm was a prayer of trust amidst suffering.
He trusted to the Father, even amidst that suffering.
So should we.

There was darkness then, there is darkness now.
God was involved and felt “sadness” then, He is involved and feels with us now.
And He calls on us not to give up, not to go spiritually asleep,
“Stay awake, WITH ME” -He is with us.

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