“By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24)
There is something exciting about Palm Sunday; there is a spirit of joy, of glory, as the Lord enters triumphantly into Jerusalem. The people flock around Him, waving palm branches, which they lay before Him. Everything seems so joyful, so happy. There is jubilation amongst the people. Going to Mass today, we might well be caught up in a similar sense of jubilation – there is just something about Palm Sunday, and our receiving of the palms today plays a part in this to some degree.
And yet, it was only a few short weeks ago that ashes were placed on our foreheads, the ashes of burnt palms; and as they were placed there, they formed a cross – for us, a very visceral reminder that the Cross is there as it always has been and always will be, throughout all of salvation history.
Our Lord is not primarily the one who enters Jerusalem in triumph on this day – it is the Lord who is crucified. The reality of that Crucifixion looms large on the horizon today, drawing closer as this Holy Week moves forward. Our Lord is indeed King – but His crown is not of gold, but of thorns; His garments are not of finest silk, but a purple cloak stained with His Blood; His sceptre is not of precious jewels, but is a reed; His throne is not of sculpted marble, but of rough wood, the wood of the Cross on Golgotha. The true glory will come, certainly, but not before the reality of the Crucifixion.
Saint Peter reminds us of this, and reminds us, too, that we are also called to suffer like the Master, when he writes –
‘For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.. He Himself bore our sins in His Body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.’ (1 Pt.2:21,24)
In the Divine Mercy Image, the Lord is depicted as He appeared to the Apostles on the evening of Easter Sunday. He is truly Lord, risen and glorious, His Heart pouring forth graces and mercy as represented by the red and pale rays. But note well that these rays pour forth only because that Heart has been torn open by the lance while He was nailed to the Cross. In other words, this glorious and risen Lord still bears, even now, the wounds of His Passion and Death.
In the same way that St Peter reminded those to whom he was writing that as followers of Christ we, too, are called to suffer, so did the Lord Himself remind St Faustina of the place of suffering in her own life –
‘I am taking you into My school for the whole of Lent, I want to teach you how to suffer.. You are allowed to drink from the cup from which I drink.’ (Diary, entry #1626)
These two texts, from the Letter of St Peter and the Diary of St Faustina, are a powerful reminder to every single one of us – not simply to remind us that we will suffer, but to remind us how to suffer; by means of close union with the Crucified One.
It is a certainty that we will all suffer in one way or another at some point in our lives – this is part of the human condition, stemming from the effects of Original Sin. But what transforms our suffering, giving it meaning and making it truly redemptive, is when we offer it to the Crucified Lord and ask Him to unite our little sufferings to His own Passion and Death. Suffering offered in this ways takes on a new meaning and purpose. It transforms the world, little by little, and it transforms us.
In this Holy Week, let us look to the Lord who approaches Golgotha now, ready and willing to lay down His life for every single one of us. And in so doing, may we see all of human life in the light of the Cross, our hope and our salvation.