Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday - homily

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

A friend of mine named Shannon was one of the teenagers at the first youth group at which I helped in the early nineties. She and I hit it off right away and have stayed in touch over the years. She married Craig, the only man she ever dated. Three years into their beautiful marriage, they were in a tragic car accident. Craig died and Shannon miraculously survived. She has made an amazing physical and personal recovery.

About a year after the accident, Shannon said to me that the hardest thing about her situation was that there was no one she could talk to. There were no 27-year-old widows with whom she could relate. No one knew what she was going through. I said (more or less), “Shannon, Jesus knows what you’re going through. He experienced every human pain there is. He was not abandoned by the Father, but he united himself with all those who feel abandoned… lonely…isolated…or rejected. He knows what you are going through. You know what he went through. You are there with him on the cross. He is there with you.”

Shannon would say later that that conversation was one of the two most powerful conversations she’s ever had. Back in the youth group, she probably thought that none of this applied to her because she hadn’t really suffered. Just a few years later, it would completely apply to her. I got together with her not too long ago and she is doing well. Please pray for her.

To all of our young people here today and to all of our adults, please remember this. If you aren’t suffering now, tuck this away for when you are. When you feel abandoned… lonely…isolated…or rejected, please know that Jesus has experienced it. Mother Teresa said that this was his greatest pain. He is with you in your suffering. You are there with him on the Cross.

He was with us on the Cross. He is with us in the Eucharist. He tells us to come to him in the Eucharist. “Come to me all who labor and are burdened”. Come to me all who are abandoned…lonely…isolated…depressed…angry…discouraged…grieving…stressed. “Come to me… and I will give you rest”.


At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it a particularly bad sin if one's child uses her palm frond as a cat toy?

At 3:27 PM, Blogger fran said...

Recently, in a group discussion, the question, "Have you ever had an intimate encounter with Christ?" was posed.

At the time, I was thinking that such an encounter had to be one in which I physically felt the presence of Jesus, a vision of some sort, or a maybe even a visible sign. I am very aware of Christ's presence in my life, but I was thinking it had to be a more profound feeling, a sensation of some sort.

I have always believed and understood that Jesus is with us in our suffering, but after reading today's homily post, I now realize that each of our daily struggles, and every instance of suffering is an intimate encounter with Christ. To be there with him on the cross - it doesn't get any more intimate than that.

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that is so amazing. You are such a gifted man of God and I am so thankful that he brought you into my life and helped me heal during the most challenging time of my life!


At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a story I’ve heard FG mention before, but each time I’ve heard it, I think, “Life can be unfair.” It’s hard to make sense of some things, and even harder to accept that we aren’t to make sense of some things at all.

The past wks have been a bit hard- old stuff, new stuff (old stuff mixed w/new stuff). I hadn’t been to an AA mtg in a while but decided to go to an early one this weekend. I wanted to listen to other people talk (rather than listen to the conversations in my own head) for a while. For an organization that has no “religious” affiliation, God’s name is brought up often and was again at this mtg. Some people reference their “higher power” but this woman talked about God. She had a pretty dramatic story (very different in nature to the one described by FG), but she too talked about the topic at hand- feeling alone. She basically said that she could now recognize the times when she walked away from God. She understood that God never left her, and once she moved beyond what were traumatic events, she realized that He had been there all along. Given what she had been through, I think this understanding was a miraculous gift.

Two great gifts we can offer another are understanding and acceptance. Personally, I struggle a lot when I don’t think I get them from another human being. I strive to make it enough that, if no one else does, Christ understands and accepts me. Some days that’s harder than others, and, for me, that’s why being in the church is important. Adoration and Mass are important. I literally see, touch and feel the people everyday who I think don’t understand, and I need to give time (in the same way) to the One who does. It helps me.

At 6:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Fr. Greg for this advice and comfort in our sufferings. You sound like someone who has been there as well.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I try to hang on to the faith of others, including some of the bloggers here, to believe that Christ is with me in what I'm going through. On my own, I have no sense of it. I feel like I have looked in every nook and cranny and I come up empty. But if so many people say it's true, it's got to be my own blindness. Right?

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m struggling with something- betrayal. Yesterday, I listened to the account of those who betrayed Jesus. I’ve been going to Stations of the Cross throughout Lent, something I hadn’t done before. Each time I sit there, I’m amazed that people who professed to love this man walked away knowing the horror of the fate he’d endure. At the end, however, he asked for forgiveness for them. For me, even beyond the miracles, this is the proof that Jesus was human and divine.

Easter Sunday will arrive shortly, and I’m trying not to focus on betrayal, but it will be glaringly present. It will be another round of events at which I am not welcome. I’m doing my best to do what was talked about here the other day, keep forgiveness in my heart, but it’s hard not to be sad and even angry. Those who hurt me don’t seem to care, so I don’t know how to stop feeling hurt, and I struggle to forgive in the midst of pain.

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does Jesus understand the pain, the inner turmoil we feel (towards ourselves and those we've hurt) as a result of mortal and venial sin(s) we've committed? I grasp the concept that He understands the pain we experience when unexpected and unfair events that we have no control over occur. I grasp the concept that He can forgive our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but just how does He understand the pain we experience from events that are the result of our poor or wrong choices? He never made poor or wrong choices. He never committed any sins. Even His death was perfect. Can one truly empathize, be sympathetic or understand that which they have never experienced? If so, how? What do they use as a baseline for their understanding if they've never experienced the emotion or feeling?

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus felt the full burden of our sin though he was without any. He even felt separation from God, “Why have you foresaken me?”
That's what happens when we sin- we experience a separation in our relationship with God.

He experienced what we experience whenever we despair for whatever reason. He was tempted, mocked, treated unfairly, suffered unjustly, was laughed, jeered and humiliated. He faced difficult decisions. He felt anger, abandonment, loneliness, fear, and frustration- and must have felt unloved. What else is there?

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the anon of 9:09-
I understand what you are saying. I held onto the faith of others (and still do) when I couldn’t find my own. It’s funny how things sometimes work. Faith and understanding may grow in odd ways and thru strange events.

With me-
I look back at times I shared experiences and trust with others. I see ways I grew relationships- being there for the births and deaths, sharing in the happiest and saddest times, entrusting my “secrets,” but when I needed help and support- they weren’t there. It’s easier to help in certain times than others- with a death, illness, accidents and even the loss of a job, I think people generally want to step forward (though maybe don’t always know how to help). When help is needed when things are gritty and ugly and fault can be assigned, people may instead walk away. That’s what happened to me. I felt as if all those times, all those years, all that trust had been wasted. In reality, I was alone and I “felt” alone.

I’m not the best at asking for help, but there were times when I thought it should have offered. I do that (the outright offering) all the time, so maybe I’m at fault for having the expectation the others would come forward. So, the idea that Jesus might be there with me was the thing that I held onto (and I didn’t have to ask). Whether I had any “feeling” of him or not, recognized him or even spoke to him, I believed what I was told (faith through the faith of another), that he was there. It got me through. It still does, but now I know that belief is MY faith.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger fran said...

I heard this phrase recently:

"A parent is only as happy as their saddest child."

Put Jesus in the place of the parent, and it is easy to understand how he feels the emotions; pain and turmoil of our wrong choices. As parents, do we not feel the pain that our children feel? As husband or wife do we not feel the turmoil of our spouse?

I would wager a guess that sometimes the pain of the parent is greater than that of the child; the pain of the husband or wife, greater than that of the spouse.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Anon 11:40am

It can be difficult to fathom that someone who has not experienced what you have experienced could have any understanding of what you’ve been through. Even those who have been through the same difficulty that you have had may not have been impacted the same way. After all, each of us has a unique set of traits and personal history that colors how we experience the world around us.

Yet, we often do seek guidance or accept support from those who haven’t “been there.” We trust that they want to understand, and that even if they don’t fully understand they will do their best to give us what we need. We just need to make the effort to reach out and open up instead of keeping our pain to ourselves.

Jesus was human, but He wasn’t JUST human. He was – He is the Word of God, who knew us before we were born, who can number the hairs on our heads. Jesus may not have screwed up, ever, but he KNOWS us, and he understands us.

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the topic of thinking one is alone-

My grandmother taught me how to pray the Rosary. It had been a long time between then and later being given the penance of praying a decade of the Rosary. I felt pretty stupid and rather than tell the priest that I really didn’t remember how to do that, I asked my daughter to show me, as she prayed it in school. I was embarrassed to admit that I really didn’t have much of a prayer life. At that point, I’m not sure if my prayer life consisted of much more than sitting and thinking about the ten million things that shot through my mind in no particular order.

Then, a while back, I was in a sort of lecture series that discussed the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer. After that, I felt a little better about that with which I was lacking. The disciples asked Jesus how to pray. They spent day after day with this man, watching how he prayed and yet they asked for specific direction, and he gave it- prayer begins with “Our Father.” He didn’t say to pray, “Dear God” but told us to pray to “Our Father”, making us family. I can’t help but think Jesus gave these explicit instructions to help remind us that we aren’t in this alone. We’re linked to God, our Father, but also to one another through Him.


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