THEME: NO CROSS, NO CROWN
READINGS: Isaiah 50:4-7/ Philippians 2: 6-11/ Luke 22:14-23:56.
The Palm Sunday celebration begins with the joyful triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It then continues with the passion narrative of His arrest, suffering and crucifixion. Whereas in the Lord’s triumphant entry, He was greeted with cheers of “Hosanna … hosanna”, in His passion, He received jeers of “crucify Him …crucify Him”. His crucifixion, however, was not the end of His story; for He arose on the third day. The fact that the resurrection of Jesus followed His humiliating death on the cross could be succinctly stated as, “no cross, no crown (NCNC)”.
Another way of putting it is, “no suffering, no salvation (NSNS)”. Our Lord’s suffering for us does not, however, mean the end of our own experiences of temporal suffering. Hence, He invites us to renounce ourselves, take up our cross (of suffering) daily, and follow him (Luke 9:23). It may be worthwhile to explain why we also have to suffer despite the saving suffering of Jesus. Let us consider two illustrations for the explanation. The first illustration is the process of a kidney transplant. The kidney donor may “suffer” a surgery to donate his/her kidney to save another person. However, the latter would not be saved if he/she does not want to “suffer” the surgery required for the kidney transplant. Similarly, by dying on the cross, Jesus has suffered to offer us His “kidney”, but we also have to endure the pain of surgery to receive the “kidney” of salvation.
Here is the second illustration: imagine a single parent, a needy mother, who does two or three odd jobs as well as sells her clothing to cater for the education of her children. Now, is her struggle or suffering sufficient to make the children pass their examinations? No! For they have to play their part by attending classes and struggling to study hard in order to pass their examinations. Similarly, though Jesus has suffered for our salvation, we also need to play our part. That is why He says that He who wants to follow Him must renounce him/herself, take up his/her cross daily and follow Him.
Therefore, beloved, playing our part to follow Jesus entails struggles or sufferings. These may come in the form of the loss of a job, a loss in business, no employment after graduation, no prospects of marriage, a marriage with no children, sickness, the death of a dear one, etc. In practical terms, therefore, NSNS could be expressed as, “no struggle, no success.”
Furthermore, it could also be said that “no hell, no heaven (NHNH)”. Once again, applicable to our daily lives, NHNH could mean, “no hard-work/hardship, no happiness”. A happy marriage, for instance, does not happen spontaneously or naturally; it is rather the result of hard work (sometimes, enduring hardships) by the spouses.
Consequently, when we experience some problems or pain in life, we should not question the existence or goodness of God, nor think He has abandoned us. Rather, we should be encouraged to persevere in faith, knowing that the cross, suffering or hardship is part of the way of salvation and that the reward at the end of this way of the cross is exceedingly amazing and everlasting. Amen.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis