Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
A life’s project seemingly in tatters, trapped on a cross, betrayed, beaten, abused and experiencing a most cruel death. The passion of Jesus is presented to us in today’s liturgy without censorship or apology – the evangelist does not try to soften the suffering or the pain Jesus endured.
Yet the readings of today do not merely describe the death of a good man on a cross, they also paint a portrait of Jesus dying as he lived – with faith, with self possession, with respect for others and kind words for those who care to listen. Indeed if we look more deeply into this portrait we also see a man who despite his suffering remained prayerful till his last breath and whose trust in his Father likewise remained unshakeably strong to the end.
Amidst his cries, his forgiving words and prayers, there is one moment when Jesus turns to the little community standing at the foot of the cross and says, "Woman behold your son… behold your mother". And the evangelist records that "from that hour the disciple took her into his home".
Today I would invite you to pause there. To meditate on the fact that Jesus directed the disciple to make a home for Mary who is also suffering this devastating loss. That concept – of making a home for another who is grieving or who experiences suffering in broader ways, may be one of the fundamental lessons we can draw from Our Lord’s passion.
Those who stood with Jesus at the cross could not change or affect the outcome, but with faith and love they could be strong and supportive for each other. We too, so often stand with or besides those who suffer – the friend whose partner is ill, the parent sick with worry for their child, the friend who is rejected in love and doesn’t believe in themselves any longer, the fellow student or colleague who is dealing with a crushing blow to their study or career hopes or to their financial security. We too are often powerless to change their situations, but perhaps we are able to ‘make a home’ for them in their time of their suffering.
In such a context creating ‘a home’ for another could mean many things – to call them, to be present to them, simply being there to listen and to respond with a quiet word of assurance when its needed and silence when its appropriate. Making a home for another is doing all and everything that helps a person to know and feel that they are not alone in that dark place with their pain. In fact I think that the love that creates a ‘home’ for the other, that gives them a moment of peace or engenders a little hope also creates just enough space for God’s Spirit to find a way through their pain and into a person’s deeper self. In and through the ‘home’ we’ve provided (the human touch), I believe that the Spirit of God can build upon the foundations we lay to begin the often long process of healing.
Even with the deepest faith and trust, we will not overcome some sufferings and will not eradicate all evil – but we can follow the sign that Jesus left us from the cross and practice a strategy that can truly be termed a Christ-inspired response to the suffering of another. Every disciple has the capacity to make a ‘home’ for the one who is suffering; and the inspiring words of the dying Jesus invite us to do just that for those whose lives we are able to touch.
May the Passion of Jesus be always in our hearts and may our hearts always respond in a Christ-like way to the sufferings of others.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia. He currently serves on the General Council and is stationed in Rome.