Humility in Suffering and Service
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the parochial vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details contact him on:firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or +23408063767512
The Church today celebrates Palm/Passion Sunday which is the last Sunday before Easter. While Palm Sunday signifies royalty and triumph, Passion Sunday signifies both suffering and love. Both of these however, portray humility in action. Hence today’s celebration has a double barreled-phase and also bears a dual meaning. While reflecting on the nature of today’s celebration one scenario came to my mind. I was quick to remember the activities of a particular specie of tiny rats in my village. These tiny creatures operate in the night and specialize in chopping or eating off part of someone’s toes or fingers. The remarkable thing about these creatures and their activities is that they play dual role. While they are biting and eating off part of one’s toe, they at the same time blow a gently breeze over the area, such that the victim rather than feel pain and wake up to chase them away, feels a soothing sensation that keeps him/her sleeping while they comfortably carry out their mission.
On this day in the church’s liturgical calendar, the Christian community begins the re-enacting of another phase of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ (his Death, Burial and Resurrection) upon which the salvation of humanity is anchored. We re-enact the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem as well as his passion. Hence it reminds us of the double-aged nature of our Christian lives and journey. We are celebrated today and persecuted tomorrow; loved today and hated tomorrow; praised today and castigated tomorrow. A very important lesson we are to learn from all these, is that life presents us with its different dimensions as it unfolds. The same people who cheer us up in good times shouting: “Hosanna! Hosanna!! Hosanna!!!” might equally be the same later on in life, to shout: “Crucify him! Crucify him!! Crucify!!!” This is the mystery and dialectics of life. Mystery because, at times understanding it is beyond our reach and imagination, and dialectical because these two aspects of life certainly help us to know truly who we really are and what we mean to people.
A look at today’s readings portrays the humility with which Christ approached these situations. In the first reading (Ish 50:4-7) taken from one of the “ebed Yahweh” (servant of Yahweh’s) songs, one finds the prefigured Christ humbly bearing his suffering without any resistance. Also in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:6-11), we see humility at its apogee. This is the kenosis or self-emptying of Christ: “though he was in the form of men he did not regard equality with God.” In the gospel (Lk 22:14-23:56), at supper he humbled himself to the point of accepting to eat at the same table with the one about to betray him. “…And yet behold the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on table.” In spite of all these, he taught his disciples to humble themselves as he humbled himself before Pilate and the chief priests even till death.
In all of these we learn humility in all circumstances of life both in good and bad times. Christ was strong but humbly, he became weak. He taught us as Pope Francis I said during his installation Mass on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 that: “True power lies in service” and humility. During his triumphant entry he rode on a colt which symbolizes humility. In his suffering he abandoned himself to his enemies without resistance or striking back. Let us therefore pray at this Mass that the Almighty God may grant us the humility with which to follow Christ during this Holy Week. So that in the days beyond we might find the strength we need to live truly as Christ lived without losing our faith in God who truly cares and never abandons those who put their trust in him.
Peace be with you!