Friday, April 10, 2009

Why not my will?


The directives for our liturgy today say, “The priest may give a brief homily.” Now, when I looked at that I thought – does that mean that the priest may or may not give a homily, or that it may or may not be brief. Well, anyway, I will try to be brief.

For the second time this week, we hear the Passion of Jesus powerfully proclaimed. And, I think we can sit with the question – what are we to make of this? What are we to make of this incredibly selfless act of Jesus giving His life for our sakes? Well, I think the meaning is in what happened just before we began our story tonight. We began tonight with Judas handing over Jesus. But, before these events kicked into motion, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, also called, perhaps more appropriately, the Garden of the Agony.

In the garden, He prays, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Imagine that. Jesus knows what is about to transpire. His destiny has been revealed to Him. He knows about the unfair trial and the mockery that awaits. He has predicted the denial by those who love Him. He knows of the public humiliation, and the pain of the scourging and the crucifixion. And yet, he prays, “Not my will, but Your will.” Faced with overwhelming pain and suffering, the prayer of Christ is powerfully to follow the will of God – even to the Cross.

And how about us? How do we face the same trials and tribulations, pains and anguish, in our own lives? When we are faced with suffering that we know, or don’t know, and we bring that suffering to God, what is our prayer? Well, very often, we can be very close to the prayer of Jesus, but sometimes close can still make all the difference in the world. When we are faced with challenges and struggles, do we pray, like Jesus, “Not my will, but Your will?” Or do we pray, instead, “Why NOT my will God? Why me? Why must I carry this cross, endure this pain, this struggle? Not this, Lord. Anything but this. Why NOT my will?”

You know what an inspiration Fr. Mike’s Mom, Adele, was in my life and in many people’s lives. I have preached about her before. As I have been reflecting on this homily for the last few weeks, I kept coming back to an encounter that she had with Fr. Mike in the final months of her life. Although you’d never guess it when you met this joyful woman, Adele’s life had been full of suffering. She lost family members very dear to her when she was very young; in her attempts to bear children, she endured 7 miscarriages. And towards the end of her life, she suffered from diabetes and congestive heart failure. Cancer of the kidney lead to the removal of one of her kidneys and her remaining kidney was failing so that she had to receive dialysis for a few years.

The diabetes had lead to the need to amputate one of her legs at the age of 77. Just before this surgery, Fr. Mike visited with Adele and anointed her with the Sacrament of the Sick. In their conversation, Adele shared how she was constantly praying for her family to know Jesus more deeply. Fr. Mike prayed with his Mom and asked her a question we can all relate to, “Mom do you ever wonder why you’ve had to go through so much suffering?” Adele said, correctively to her son, “Mike, I have never asked ‘Why me?’ The question I ask is, ‘Why not me?’” Smiling she said, “I’m not wasting this suffering.”

My friends, what Adele knew – what Jesus knew – is that our suffering is a gift; our suffering is a grace; our suffering is an opportunity; our suffering is salvific. What she and Jesus know is that our suffering isn’t about us; it is about others. It isn’t full of pain; it is full of love. Jesus could have the courage to trust in God’s will because He knew the glory that this moment would bring to the world; to all of creation. “I make all things new.” He knew the Gates of Heaven fly open in this moment and salvation will spread to all people. He knew that this moment was not about Him; it was about us.

My friends, our suffering, too, presents us with the chance to transform our pain into glory for someone else, for the world. Our suffering isn’t separate from Christ’s suffering. When we unite our suffering with Christ, we are standing at the foot of the Cross on Calvary, participating with Christ in the salvation of the world. When we ask only “Why me?” we are asking the wrong question and missing out on that opportunity. Jesus gives us the chance to make meaning and glory out of the most challenging moments life can deal us. So, why waste it? Why waste that suffering? Now, we don’t have to go and seek it out – our Cross has been custom made for us and it will find us; we need not look for it. But, the question is, when it finds us, what will we do?

My brothers and sisters, as we approach the Cross tonight for veneration, will we kneel before our Lord and say, “Why NOT my will Lord?” Or will we have the courage to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done?” Will we kiss that wood and ask, “Why me?” Or will we have the strength to say, “Why not me?”

Behold the wood of the Cross. O come, let us adore.

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