April 2022 Allocutio
“Not my will but yours be done!”
Fr Paul Churchill
On this Palm Sunday we begin our great celebration of the saving events of history. What we are entering is captured in those words of Our Lord, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer and so enter his glory!” (Lk 24:26).
And as we reflect on his suffering it is not just the physical pains. They were excruciatingly hard but they can only have added to the deeper suffering Our Lord went through. We are incapable of understanding what the divinity in him suffered. But because he had united his divinity with our humanity we can just begin to sense something of his darkness in his passion. How does it feel to be so mistreated when you have only done good and desired nothing but good and yet end up being rejected as a person, wanted dead, condemned as a criminal? What must it feel like when your closest allies have betrayed you, denied you, suddenly want to distance themselves from you? What when you presented the world the message of eternal life and now your life’s work seems to have come to nothing? And as you go through the mental and psychological suffering, the pains in your body only exacerbate things and all you sense is abject darkness. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!” (Mk 15:34).
But in there, in the suffering, there lies a great faith and trust in his Father. “Not my will but yours be done!” That light of his total trust shone in the darkness and “he was heard for his godly faith” (Heb 5:7). And so God raised him high and gave him a name above all other names (Phil 2:9). By going through his Passion, he made an extraordinary breakthrough for life in his Resurrection. The scientific term “quantum leap” does not do it justice. What this jump is actually like we must wait until that moment when, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, we shall be changed, having a new imperishable and glorified body (1 Cor 15:51ss).
One huge message of encouragement for us all that Christ is giving us is this: when all your good work and efforts seem to bear no fruit, do not despair or give up. Just like me, you will experience things getting worse despite your genuine efforts and you will feel abject pain and darkness, but remember that that is when your victory is just around the corner. So never despair, never give up. Believe in my way and in my mission that you share in. Just think of the many saints who went through horror and stayed faithful and are glorified even today by your admiration of them, be they Edith Steins or Maximilian Kolbe.
In fact, let us think about this facet of Christ’s act of redemption: Many past personalities are remembered with interest, be they Pharaohs, prophets, Greek philosophers, Roman emperors, etc. But only Christ has the level of personal worship and devotion that belongs to a living being. There is no one else who has ever had such a depth and extension of interpersonal relationship as he.
Our Lady too communicates the same message to us. There is no sorrow can come near hers at the foot of the Cross. Her son is being subjected to dreadful cruelty and condemned as a criminal. She knew her son was a good person, with deep concern in his heart for others. That is why she turned to him in Cana to help out a couple staring at an awful embarrassment. What darkness and pain must have been in her as she tries to deal with the sight before her! But her faith also tells her to trust, all will be well, God is in charge.
We remember St. John’s comment at the end of his Gospel that if all the things Jesus said and did were recorded then all the books in the world would not suffice to record them. That tells us that the evangelists had to sift and filter out so much while holding onto what they felt were crucial elements. St. Luke clearly had some contact with Mary and was able to give us certain sides of the events of Christ that we might not otherwise know had he not listened to her.
You may recall those words of Elizabeth that he recorded, “Blessed is she who believed that what was promised by the Lord would be fulfilled”. Historically said when both women were pregnant. But I suspect St. Luke, in the post-Resurrection period, opted to put those in because they gave a profound insight into Our Lady’s total disposition, being part of her being right to the end. Thus, they can also be taken in this sense: “Blessed is she who believed in the face of the Cross that the promise made her by the Lord that he would be great and called son of the most High would be fulfilled!” Humanly what happened on the Cross was awful. In the face of that darkness she kept faith and was also rewarded, not just to see her son risen from the dead but also to share his Resurrection. So, she says again to us all, “Do what he tells you and never doubt even when all goes black and your faith seems to have been in vain!”
St. Paul will say, “If Christ is not risen our faith is in vain and we of all people are most to be pitied!” That a community of thousands and of millions should have survived over the last 2000 years because of a deep personal devotion to him is in itself an extraordinary human phenomenon. It is also witness to his Holy Spirit profoundly at work over the ages, a Spirit Our Lady was also instrumental in winning for us. Kind Lady, pray again that that Spirit will be with us through our darkest hours. Amen.