Gospel Reflection: Sixth Sunday of Lent
Reflection by Barb Soricelli
Palm Sunday, this is the day we remember Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and its sequel; his crucifixion and death culminating in his resurrection. This is the main event, the central focus of our Christian faith; God becomes human.
He did not cling to his position as God but emptied himself to become human, “like us in all things except sin.”
Celebrated by the crowds waving palm branches, Jesus enters Jerusalem; and is subsequently ridiculed, betrayed and abandoned by those closest to him. He asks us to follow him: “take up your cross, follow me for I am meek and humble of heart and you shall find rest for your souls…I am the way, the truth and the light.”
As Christ’s passion unfolds we soon see that we are not being invited to live lives of pleasure or power but of suffering. We are invited to empty ourselves to make room for God in our lives. So what draws us to accept such an invitation? It is astounding that Christ should have so many followers in the wake of such an unattractive proposition!
As I contemplate this invitation my thoughts turn to a patient named Mari in Coroico, Bolivia. I met Mari on my first mission trip with Solidarity Bridge where I served as a translator in the OB/gyne clinic. I was deeply moved by this valiant woman who for many years bore the pain of a tumor growing in her uterus with such equanimity. Unable to pay the high cost of medical care, she neglected to seek relief. But, the immense pain ultimately motivated Mari to seek help from Solidarity Bridge.
In her late 30s, Mari had recently married a man who had also never been married. Neither had children and they both had dreams of starting a family together. But the size of Mari’s tumor necessitated surgery to remove her uterus. Both Mari and her husband struggled with the decision. With their dreams of giving birth and having a family shattered, they contemplated the meaning of Jesus’s invitation to empty oneself. Their strong love for one another won out. They remained together after the surgery to build a life centered on God’s will for them.
Human suffering is part and parcel of our existence, there is no avoiding it. We are consistently confronted with challenges in our human journey each time we experience the personal ups and downs of life, the sickness, the deaths, the injustices, the cataclysmic events; devastating hurricanes, earth-shattering quakes, all consuming fires, mass murders and the incessant terrorist attacks throughout the world.
How do we choose to respond to such atrocities? Victor Frankel, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning points to an answer: Yes, human suffering is integral to our very being but what defines us as followers of Christ is how we choose to respond to each challenge that presents itself in our lives, be it small or great.
How do I choose to respond when I, like Jesus, feel ridiculed, betrayed and abandoned; when my life is filled with stresses caused by forces beyond my control; when personal and communal injustices seem to be present at every turn; when walls are constructed to separate rather than unite us?
Be with me as I discern my responses to the suffering that exists in my everyday life and in our world. Let me be joyful in the process of emptying myself to make room in my being for you. Help me to do this in solidarity with all my sisters and brothers throughout the world. Give me the grace needed to participate in your saving action.
Barbara Soricelli, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker presently coordinating pastoral care services at St. Nicholas Church in Evanston. She spent several years as a Maryknoll missioner in Chile,S.A. She also worked as a social worker in a Chicago settlement house, Children’s Memorial Hospital and in the public school system. Barbara served as a translator in the OB/Gyne clinic on two Solidarity Bridge mission trips in Coroico and Tiquipaya.
PRAY - FAST - GIVE
Your Lenten almsgiving will restore lives and
relieve suffering in Bolivia.