Reading I Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Reading II Philippians 2:6-11
Gospel Mark 14:1-15, 47; Mark 15
You and I are asked to take the palm branches home and place them by a crucifix or a statue in our home so that throughout the year we remember what happened on Palm Sunday, and Holy Thursday, and Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I asked you to think about a word or a phrase that might take you to some point in your life when you experienced, either in yourself or someone else, the loss and the helplessness of knowing that someone died alone.
Before I came to Quincy I lived in Jacksonville and I took care of the mental hospital. There were four units: the most severe, the less severe, and those who understood. Then for the last group, I could say Mass with them. The first three groups would always smile, but they didn’t know who I was. However, the last group did and when we gathered for Eucharist the excitement in their hearts was visible in their faces and was just unbelievable. They could all say the Lord’s Prayer with me, and most of them could receive Jesus.
But then the difficult time came when periodically a family member would bring someone to the hospital who had a mental illness and just drop him or her off at the facility, drive away, and never come back to see them. Those people were left alone with no family to visit them. When they died, the funeral director would call me and say, “Father, we need a burial.” And so I would meet the funeral director at the cemetery, we had a special plot aside for them, and it’s still there. They continued to bury people in that special plot until the hospital closed a few years ago.
Here was a human being who was gifted in a totally different way than everybody else, but in their final breath, and going back home, they were all alone — it was just me and the funeral director with them. Periodically, I would go out to the cemetery and to that special plot just to pray for those people.
This gives you a sense of how Jesus felt when he was hanging on the cross.
Suffering means different things for everyone sitting here. We suffer in different ways. And when you suffer you can feel very alone. It was like the young man in the Gospel this morning. He wore a loin cloth but got so excited that he threw it down and ran off naked.
Jesus hung on the cross to be a spectacle. The church is not inviting us to feel morbid about this. The church is asking us to realize that as Jesus hung on the cross — that was his last Gospel. And what he was saying to those people standing at the foot of the cross two thousand years ago, and now is saying to all of us today, and asking, “Are you still with me?”
Hopefully, you and I can say, “Yeah, I am. Sometimes I don’t pay attention to you but I still know you are God and I want you in my life.”
Yesterday, when the young boy in town was shot — let me ask you — what drives any human being to do something like that? Just to drive along and for the fun of it, shoot people and shoot a kid when he has all of life to live. Yet, Jesus says, “I know. I know what it’s like to suffer. That’s why I am hanging here.”
Nothing will ever make any sense to us in our lives unless we understand there was a purpose to the last supper, to the crucifixion, and the resurrection.
May you and I think about that as we go through this Holy Week. It’s very powerful.
Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.