HOMILY – WEDNESDAY of HOLY WEEK
The Key to the Kingdom
(Is 50:4-9; Ps 69; Mt 26:14-26)
A fellow, tired of carrying his cross, went into a cross shop to trade it in. He tried on all kinds of crosses, but found them all either too long or too short, too heavy or too light, too rough or too slippery, and so on. Finally, he tried one that was just right, and told the shop owner that he would take that one. The shop owner commented that was the one he carried in!
Chances are the crosses that we are carrying at the moment, are the crosses that we are meant to be carrying. What is important is how we carry them.
We are invited to carry our crosses, to accept some suffering in our lives, the way Jesus did, without bitterness or resentment. That is the key to the kingdom of God.
Isaiah in the first reading prophesies about a servant of the Lord who not only listens to the will of God, but also gives his back to those who strike him; does not hide his face from those who insult and spit at him; who sets his face like flint and trusts that God will vindicate him. Sounds a lot like Jesus, does it not?
Psalm 69 is almost the same as Psalm 22 that Jesus quotes on the cross – prophesying a person who bears reproach, who is covered with shame, insulted, abandoned without comforters, given vinegar to drink – yet in the end, praises God with song and magnifies God with thanksgiving. This also seems to fit Jesus, does it not?
In the gospel we see Jesus at table with his disciples, predicting that one of them will betray him. That too was one of Jesus’ greatest sufferings – to be betrayed by one of his own disciples. That is, of course, on top of being denied by Peter, abandoned by all of his disciples, and then tried, flogged, mocked and crucified by the power of the religious establishment of the time and the Empire of Rome.
Most telling of all, however, is how Jesus accepted all these different trials and suffering without bitterness or resentment – only love for his enemies and those who let him down, expressed through forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”
That is the invitation that the Word of God and our faith extends to us – to accept some suffering and inconvenience in our lives for the sake of the Gospel and for others, like Jesus, without bitterness or resentment. This is the key to the kingdom, because when we act like Jesus, we get to feel like Jesus –peace and joy, even on the cross, because we know that we are doing the will of the Father – to make God’s love known and present in this world.
When we act like God, we get to feel like God. When we forgive as Jesus forgave, our innocence comes back; our dignity comes back; our self-esteem comes back in spades, because we are just like Jesus on the cross – and it does not get better than that. We are in the kingdom of God – pure and simple.
Robert’s wife is in a nursing home with MS, and has just lost the use of her hands. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, he is not allowed to enter the facility at all, so is not able to tend to her needs. This separation is heart-rendering for him, so much so that he uncharacteristically cried on the phone during a call to his sister. He is sharing in the cross that Jesus carried. What a challenge he faces – to be able to accept this horrible situation without bitterness of resentment.
In the course of the supper, Jesus identifies himself so radically with the Passover bread and wine that they become his Body and his Blood. Like broken bread, the Lord says, his body will be given away in love; and like spilled wine, his blood will be poured out on behalf of many.
May our celebration strengthen our faith in Jesus, and empower us to give our lives away in love, accept some suffering without bitterness or resentment, and live in the kingdom of God.