Sunday, March 29, 2015

Death As Revelation

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (B)

Picture: cc Choo Yut Sing

Sisters and brothers, what has this past week been like for you? These last seven days of national mourning, following the passing of the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew? For me, perhaps more than anything else, it has been a time of revelation. Of uncovering things that I didn’t know before. And not just about the man himself. His extraordinary intelligence. His boundless energy. His steadfast devotion. I think we more or less knew all of that already.

What I’ve found particularly striking about these days is what they have revealed about us. The people of Singapore. I used to think that we cared only about the more mundane and practical things. As well as the more trivial and nonsensical things. I thought that we would bother to queue up only for stuff like primary school places and lottery tickets. Or iPhones and Hello Kitty dolls. But I was wrong. The enormous outpouring of gratitude and grief that we’ve witnessed over these days have proved me wrong. People willing to stand in line for up to 8 hours in the hot sun. Just to pay their last respects. Old people. Sick people. People in wheel chairs. People with babes in arms. People weeping openly, unrestrainedly. People kneeling, and even prostrating themselves, in prayer...

Sisters and brothers, over these last seven days, something that was previously hidden, at least to me, has now been uncovered. The deep respect and admiration that Singaporeans have for their founding father. Mr. Lee’s passing has indeed been a time of revelation.

And if this is true of the death of someone who helped to build a nation only fifty years old. How much more must it be true of the death of Someone who announced the coming of an eternal kingdom? How much more will the dying of Christ, the Son of God, also be for us a time of revelation? Isn’t this what we find in our readings today? As Jesus goes to his Passion, his suffering and death on the Cross reveals hidden things about the people around him. It uncovers the jealousy of Jesus’ opponents. The chief priests and the scribes. Who plotted to have him killed in secret. So as not to cause a disturbance among the people. It lays bare for us the terrible disloyalty of Judas. The close friend. Who broke bread with the Lord. And then betrayed Him with a kiss. It exposes the cowardice of Peter and the other disciples. Who denied and deserted their Master. At the time of his greatest need. As well as of Pontius Pilate. The governor. Who was more anxious to placate the crowd than to save an innocent man.

Thankfully, however, cowardice and deception are not the only things that the Lord’s death uncovers. As Jesus goes to his Passion, there are also those who courageously step forward to show their care and concern. There is the unnamed woman at Bethany, for example. Who lovingly prepared Jesus’ body for burial. There are the other women. The two Marys, Salome and their companions. Who watched his Crucifixion from a distance. And there’s Joseph of Arimathea. Who boldly went to Pilate and asked for his body.

Like the passing of Mr. Lee, the Passion of Christ too is a time of revelation. It reveals something about the people around him. Who they are. What they stand for. And what the Lord’s Passion does for these people, it can also do for us. In this holiest of weeks, as we accompany Jesus on the Way of the Cross, his Passion and Death can reveal to us something of ourselves as well. Of who we are. And what we stand for. This can be a time for the Lord to uncover for us the true extent of our commitment to him. Of the place that he holds in our hearts and in our lives. A time for him to lay bare our generosity and our courage. As well as our cowardice and deception. Not to accuse or to condemn us. But to free and to transform us. To challenge us to do better.

For the dying of Someone great is not just a time of revelation. It is also a time of inspiration. Of being called and empowered to rise above ourselves. To build on foundations already laid for us. Foundations revealed by the Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ. He is the Suffering Servant of the first reading. The One who makes no resistance to those who humiliate and torture him. He is the Humble Slave of the second reading. Who, though equal to God, freely empties himself. Even to the point of accepting death on a Cross. He is the Crucified One of the gospel. Whom, at his death, a soldier identifies as a son of God.

Sisters and brothers, in the days ahead, as we remember the Lord’s sacrifice for our sakes, as we allow his Passion to uncover who we really are, we can also be inspired to follow the Way that he walked. To patiently bear our own crosses. For love of God and neighbour. And to reach out to those who may struggle more painfully to carry theirs. The people around us who suffer and who need our help. People who have less than we do. Both materially and spiritually. Those who need someone to help them with their crosses. As Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus with his.

Sisters and brothers, as we enter this holiest of weeks, what is the Passion and Death of Christ revealing to you about yourself today?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord Jesus,

    at the time of Your Passion - besides the evil that had prevailed - the jealousy, rivalry, false accusations that came from those who cannot accept Your Love and Your Light of Truth that are much too penetrating (piercing) for them; there was also a display of strong bravery and courage of Your loyal followers - people like Joseph of Arimathaea, Veronica, Simon of Cyrene to name a few....

    Veronica, in particular, had the courage to stand up as a woman amidst the fierce and brutal Roman soldiers - just to show her love for You, to wipe away the blood and tears from Thy Face - without this act of courage, we will not have seen Your Face, O Lord...

    Joseph of Arimathaea - he boldly went to Pontius Pilate to ask for Your body - to arrange for a decent burial for You. Such courage is indeed commendable - as he was probably "risking his own life" to ask for a body of a "criminal" who had just been crucified.

    O Lord of the Passion, please grant me the same courage to dare to stand up for You in the face of opposition and antagonism. Like Veronica and Joseph of Arimathaea - to dare to oppose the opinion of the crowd (the greater majority) and do what is right.

    Yesterday, at the Tanjong Pagar Community Club, I was deeply touched as I witnessed a deep affection of the people of Singapore for our late Founding Father.

    I was deeply touched when I joined a whole group of people (regardless of age, race, language and religion) to bow 3 times before the picture of our late Mr Lee. We were all one in heart and mind as we honour and remember him who had founded and built our nation.

    On my way to the community club, I could not help but stopped for a moment, as I saw a young man hobbling all the way up the slope - he had so much difficulties walking and yet he persevered with great urgency without stopping to take a break....before long, he disappeared before my sight...he had probably reached the venue and paid his last respects...

    Also, there were people on wheelchairs, ladies with babies in arms, and senior citizens who came with walking support etc - they all made time and came all the way just to pay their last respects to a man who had selflessly given himself and his life to our nation.

    Indeed, we remain grateful to God for blessing us with selfless Angels who had "laid down their lives" so that we can live on, with courage, grace and strength.

    This Holy Week 2015, may we be blessed with the courage to walk on, close to Our Lord as He carried His cross up to Mount Calvary. Like Mother Mary, as we stand near the Cross of Christ, may we learn from Him to love and to die to ourselves.


    Sih Ying
    29 March 2015