Passion Sunday 2024

25 March 2024

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Passion Sunday 2024


[Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1 – 15:47]

I had occasion to visit a few of our Catholic schools this past week. The children always have plenty of questions, and one in particular stood out for me from the others.  A young lad in grade four asked me this: “How does God handle all the suffering that is happening in the world?” The boy was asking this on behalf of all the students, who had prepared their questions prior to my arrival and agreed among themselves that they wanted this to be the first question posed. Clearly, the issue of suffering was troubling these very young minds.

As it does older minds, too, I might add. Stories of illness and social unrest surround us, while images of famine and war parade hourly across television and computer screens. We are all acutely aware of intense suffering in our time, and in our own way often ask the same question posed by the grade four students. How is God responding to all this?

To those young children in school, I gave the same answer that the Scripture readings of today and the liturgies of Holy Week offer us. I pointed to the Cross. There we see the Eternal Son of God, who became one of us, assuming to himself the suffering of humanity.  God does not remain aloof from the pain of His people. No, God instead comes and takes it to Himself and thus stands in deepest solidarity with all who are suffering. What is more, by his resurrection from the dead Jesus demonstrates the unlimited power of God’s love, a force which refuses to give to suffering the final word, but rather transforms it into life. The Cross tells us that God “handles” our suffering by joining with us in it, enabling us to carry it, and leading us toward its transformation into something good beyond our imagining.

I’m not sure if my answer was met with understanding by those very young minds at the school. I rather doubt it, because even as we grow older, we still find ourselves uncomprehending before the mystery of the Cross as God’s answer to suffering and sin. But understanding is not our achievement; it is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps, then, this can be our prayer as together we enter Holy Week with its solemn liturgical proclamations of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead us into a deeper grasp of this amazing mystery of God’s love. Yes, there is great suffering in our world, and by times in our own personal lives as well. But the Cross teaches that God will always draw near in both love and power to be our strength and salvation. As we listen this week to God’s Holy Word and celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Lord Jesus, may God Himself enable us to take to heart the message of the Cross, and from it draw real hope.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Joseph Basilica

March 24th, 2024