By Chaplain (Maj.) Jorge Budez
Special to GUIDON
Every year, the liturgical calendar of the church begins Holy Week with Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday depicts the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, “The Holy City,” where the crowd received him as their king. However, this enthusiastic entrance contrasts with the Calvary experience only one week later.
For many Christians, it is easy to join in the joyful celebrations of the faith. It is easy to follow the man who made the blind see; who made the crippled walk; who brought Lazarus back to life; who fed over 5,000 people. It feels so good to go to church on Christmas and Easter and leave full of joy. And so, we say, “Isn’t it great to be a Christian?” It is easy for us to face his entrance, yet what are we to make of his exit? To do this, we have to face the uncomfortable reality of suffering.
In life, there are many kinds of suffering. While suffering, in itself, we might regard as a great evil, suffering for a noble purpose, we may rightly consider a great good. The suffering of a people under an oppressive regime, for example, is of no benefit, while the suffering endured by a Soldier to liberate the oppressed, we may rightly praise. Indeed, this is exactly what Jesus’ Calvary experience is about. He suffered to free us from oppression, to open the door to our redemption, to reconcile us to each other and to God.
Palm Sunday, then, appears to be about two events, the entrance with palms into Jerusalem and the exit carrying a cross to Calvary. However, it really is about one event: the calling to follow the lord wherever he leads us in joy and suffering. Jesus’ passion was not mainly about suffering – it is about compassion because it was Jesus’ compassion for us that opened the door for our redemption.
The suffering was just a consequence of his love and total openness to God’s will. In life, there are many kinds of suffering (oppression, pandemics, unjust economic systems, etc.), but only the suffering that comes from love and remains faithful is redemptive. Jesus’ passion was bounded by these profound contrasts – between his entrance and his exit, between coronation and crucifixion, between salutation and suffering. Yet, through it all, our lord faithfully followed God in joy and suffering. Taking his perseverance as our example, may we go to serve our nation and our God whenever and wherever we may be called.
(Editor’s note: Budez is the 3rd Chemical Brigade chaplain.)