Humility in Suffering and Service
Readings: 1st: Is 50, 4-7; Ps 21; 2nd: Phil 2, 6-11; Gos: Lc 8, 7. 14-23, 56
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He was the chancellor of the Diocese of Fajardo Humacao, Puerto Rico. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Today the Church celebrates the entry of Christ into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery. This Sunday is called Palm or Passion Sunday. While Palm Sunday signifies royalty and triumph, Passion Sunday signifies both suffering and love. By freely going to Jerusalem, Christ demonstrates his humility and willingness to save us.
On this day, the Christian community begins to re-enact a crucial phase of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. We re-enact the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem as well as his passion. Hence today’s celebration reminds us of the dual nature of our Christian lives and journey. We are celebrated today and persecuted tomorrow. Today we are loved, while the next day, we are hated. Today we are praised and castigated the next day.
A vital lesson we must learn from all these is that, as life unfolds, it presents us with its different dimensions. The same people who sing our praise in good times might be the same people to criticize us in the future. Today, the same people applauding Christ by singing: “Hosanna to the son of David” might equally be the same people to shout: “Crucify him!”
This is the mystery and dialectics of life. It is a mystery because, at times, understanding it is beyond our imagination. It is dialectical because these two aspects of life help us know who we are and what we mean to people.
A look at today’s readings portrays the humility with which Christ approached these situations. Our first reading is from one of the “ebed Yahweh” (suffering servant of Yahweh’s) songs. This song prefigures Christ as the suffering servant of God. Christ humbly endured his suffering without any resistance.
Also, in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see humility at its apogee. This is the kenosis or self-emptying of Christ: “Though he was in the form of man, He did not regard equality with God.”
Our gospel today is on the Last Supper of Christ with his disciples. At the Last Supper, Christ humbled himself by serving his disciples and eating at the same table with the one who was to betray him. “…And yet behold the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table.” Despite all these, he taught his disciples to humble themselves just as he humbled himself before Pilate and the chief priests even till death.
In all of these, the lesson for us today is that humility is essential in all life circumstances. This includes both good and bad times. Christ was strong, but he humbly became weak for our salvation. He taught us that true power lies in service. He also taught us that humility is one of the most important virtues we need for our service and mission.
During his triumphant entry, Christ rode on a colt which symbolizes humility. In his suffering, Christ abandoned himself to his enemies without resistance or striking back. Let us, therefore, pray this Sunday that the Almighty God may grant us the humility with which to follow and serve Christ all the days of our life.
Peace be with you!