Our tormented world

2 April 2023 Palm Sunday A

Listen to reflection

Today we celebrate the beginning of the most solemn week of our Christian calendar. Those outside our Christian faith might well accuse us of glorifying torture and death as we follow the story of Jesus’ trial, passion and crucifixion.


However, we do not follow that story as mere observers of yet another incident of human cruelty. Rather, our participation in the church’s liturgy enables us to identify with Jesus in his sufferings in order that we may also share with him the fruits of the resurrection.


This time of Holy Week puts us in touch with the most profound human questions. Why is there so much suffering and evil in the world? Why do we need to die? How is it somehow God’s will that the Son Jesus should die in such excruciating circumstances? In what way is this death of Jesus the source of our life and salvation?


We need to begin by simply recognising the reality of violence that destroys people’s lives. We can see this all too easily in others – those responsible for human trafficking, death camps, terrorist killings, ethnic cleansing, environmental destruction and the greed-filled corruption of too many in power. Jesus and the prophets speak out against this reign of terror which continues to take hold of our world.


However, following Jesus to Calvary puts us in touch with another reality: We are all sinners. We note Jesus’ challenge to those about to stone the woman accused of adultery: “Let the one without sin cast the first stone”. Unlike Jesus, none of us can claim to be the innocent victim. We should recognise ourselves in the disciples whose fear and cowardice leave Jesus to suffer and die without their support. How often have we failed to respond to a brother or sister in need?


God does not will Jesus’ crucifixion as some kind of ‘payment’ for sin. Rather, we are invited to recognise that the power of evil is so great, it will not stop at the killing of the Son of God himself. It also shows that God’s healing forgiveness and liberating love have no bounds since Christ Jesus has “emptied himself as a slave … accepting death on a cross”. The resurrection is God’s final victory over suffering, sin and death.


Christianity focuses on the Cross of Jesus as its central symbol. This does not amount to the glorification of suffering and violence. Rather, by inviting us to share in Christ’s passion, we are able to confront darkness and sin in the knowledge these are but passing realities. The Cross always points to the Resurrection and the promise of eternal life for those who acclaim Jesus as Lord.


Pope Francis states we can only acclaim Jesus as Lord through loving service of others. He further encourages us to move towards Easter focussing on God’s forgiving love, noting that Jesus Christ gazes upon “our violent and tormented world”, yet never tires of repeating: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”       


Gerard Hall SM

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