Wednesday of Holy Week
The Redemptive Suffering of Jesus’ Passion
What liberating power does God’s word have without being prophetic in the face of social injustice and human disgrace? What meaning does praying to God have in the face of human distress and hardships without any zeal for God’s merciful love? What beauty and nobility does the glory of Jesus’ resurrection have without the horrific suffering of his death? The redemptive suffering of the Servant of the Lord surfaces in today’s liturgical readings and orations and thus evokes the above reflective questions that resonate with the human experience of suffering and redemption in and through Jesus Christ. For, in the offertory, we beseech the Lord to receive "the offerings made here, and graciously grant that, celebrating your Son’s Passion in mystery, we may experience the grace of its effects."
We indeed present to God our existential struggles, hardships, hopes, and joys along with Jesus’ self-giving and suffering on the Cross, knowing that "the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not" (psalm). Because we know that Jesus’ "appointed time draws near" in Holy Week, the church’s liturgy prepares us to celebrate with him the Passover. No wonder the more we approach the celebration of the paschal triduum of Holy Week, the more we are asked to surrender our selfishness, sinfulness, and self-sufficiency to God in order to commemorate and make sense of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in our lives.
The church prepares us so well to be in tune with Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection by instructing us, since Monday, in the light of Isaiah’s "Oracles of the Servant of the Lord." And today we hear from the third oracle that the Suffering Servant of the Lord did not shield his face "from buffets and spitting," because "the Lord God has given him a well-trained tongue . . . to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them and a receptive ear "that I may hear" and not rebel against his divine will. Therefore, we will eventually come to hear on Good Friday Isaiah’s Forth Oracle of the Servant of the Lord who denied and "surrendered himself to death" (Is 53:12). We can even come to open our hearts and minds to deepen in our lives the meaning of Jesus’ words from last Palm Sunday’s Gospel of the Lord’s Passion, that is, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26:39).
God’s word will never set us free unless it remains true and prophetic in the face of social injustice and human disgrace. Likewise, unless we develop a zeal for God’s merciful love, we will never experience his life-giving and imminent presence in our prayer life. And we will never come to experience God’s redemptive grace in our lives unless we accept the suffering of our daily living with the dignity and humility of a self-surrendering attitude to God’s will. Hence, let us prepare ourselves to walk with Jesus and submit ourselves with him "to the yoke of the Cross," so that we may "attain the grace of the resurrection" (today’s collect).
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.