Jesus Knows And Shares Our Fear
Sunday of Week 5 in Lent - Year B
Jesus, the Son of God, was reaching the end of His mission. The time was rapidly approaching when He would give up His life on Earth so that the salvation of sinners could be accomplished. Jesus stood in our place, as a man like us in all things except sin, and today's Gospel reminds us of what His sacrifice meant in human terms.
Jesus, as God, knew from all eternity that His Father wanted Him to become man and undergo the cruellest of all deaths for our salvation. He foresaw every detail of His sufferings and knew that they would include the brutal Roman scourging. Was it really necessary? Could He not have said, 'Father, I can accept death on a cross, but please don't put the notion of scourging into Pilate's mind'? I can understand Jesus speaking to His Father like that because I have a great fear of being scourged: in my school days we were given the strap as punishment, and the degradation and pain were frightening. I wouldn't want to inflict it on anyone. The fact that Jesus did not attempt to avoid the scourging is, to me, just another proof of the intensity of His love for us.
Speaking to His disciples, Jesus calls Himself the "Son of Man", and tells them that His soul is troubled. No wonder He is anxious and distressed! For His death is now very close. There must have been many moments in His life when He wished with all His heart that He could avoid the pain. At those moments he prayed, as St. Paul tells us, "aloud and in silent tears". Did He pray to be released from His mission, or to be given the strength to complete it? We know that a few hours before His death He prayed fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane, appealing to His Father to let the chalice pass Him by, and His fear was so great that His sweat became drops of blood. As a man, He felt natural human fear and longed to be released. Just conversing with His Father about His sufferings must have brought Him some comfort. Yet He knew His Father's loving plan for our redemption and He was willing to carry it out.
As a man, Jesus felt physical pain, rejection, humiliation and fear, just as we do; but as God He was able to see the purpose of it all, and where it would end. He would triumph over suffering and death and His punishment would bring us peace. For many people, it is difficult to make any sense of the tribulations they are asked to endure: refugees who have lost their homes and all their belongings; people in desperate financial situations who have no idea how they're going to pay their bills; young women who find themselves pregnant and alone. For them there is nothing but a long dark tunnel with no light visible at the end of it.
Jesus knew what the future held for Him. From the moment He came into our world he was conscious of the ordeal that He would have to face. When we are struggling to find a reason for the pain and difficulties in our lives, we often wish we could peer through the darkness and see better times ahead. Some people even consult clairvoyants and fortune tellers in an attempt to know the future! But we must thank God that, in His wisdom, He hides it from us. How would we cope if we knew today that in a few years' time we would go blind, or develop cancer, or lose our family in some terrible accident? That knowledge would paralyse us. A few people would even be driven to suicide.
When despair overwhelms us, it is a comfort to us to remember that Jesus, too, experienced human suffering and therefore shares and understands all our anxieties and sorrows. He is our brother, and like Him we can pray to our heavenly Father to give us strength in our times of trial. Unlike Jesus, we cannot see the end, but like Him we have to try to put our trust in God, believing that everything we suffer in our lives is part of His plan. Jesus shows us that the cross we are given may not be taken away from us in this life but He will help us to carry it. Where He leads, we can safely follow.
Today we thank Jesus our brother for all that He willingly endured for our sake. We think of our suffering brothers and sisters who are at their wits' end, unable to see God's purpose in their misfortunes. May God comfort them.
Lord Jesus, enlighten us to see just how much people in our family, our community, our country and across the world are suffering, make us compassionate towards them and show us how best we can help them.