We associate Holy Week with suffering. There’s so much suffering and all people know suffering. But it’s different. Some who are at fault are suffering and being punished. When bad people are punished and are suffering, some seem to rejoice and say, “Good for you” or “You deserve it.” But not only bad people and wrongdoers suffer. Even those who are not guilty are suffering. Other people who are not guilty are being punished. Some who have not done anything bad are killed, persecuted. There are innocent people who are judged guilty. So the innocent suffer, the guilty also suffer. Human beings suffer.
On this Sunday, Palm Sunday, God suffers. God is innocent but the suffering that Jesus went through was not forced on Him. He was not pressured to receive suffering, he embraced suffering voluntarily. He voluntarily embraced man’s suffering. That’s how much he loves us. My dear brothers and sisters, Holy Week reminds us how much God loves us. The Lord suffered for our sins. The Lord also suffered and He faced his suffering wholeheartedly for those who are innocent.
Jesus showed that holiness is emptying one’s inner self. Emptying ourselves, suffering like others out of love for everybody. My dear brothers and sisters, the essence of Holy Week is that the Lord gave up all of His control. The virus has led us to the reality that we are helpless, that we have no control. We wanted to control governments. We wanted to control international politics. We wanted to control business and economics. Humans wanted to control humanity. We wanted to control the future. We wanted to control Mars and the moon, and yet the virus renders all of us helpless.
We have lost control. We have lost control, and it is a reminder for us that we really have no control—that control is an illusion. We have no control because our lives are in the hands of God. And God, on whom our lives depend, also gave up control. He emptied Himself. He did not stop the people who crucified Him. He did not stop people from shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He did not control them. He refused to control them and He showed His love for us by letting go of controls. By letting go of control, because I say it again, control is an illusion. What is real is obedience. We are not saved by God who chose to control us; we are saved by God who chose to let go of controls, to obey, to love, to empty Himself.
Answer me, my dear brothers and sisters. Who is truly humane? Those who have the ability to scare many people or those who are not afraid even if they may be infected, as long as they are able to save at least one suffering patient. Who is truly pro-people and who are the true heroes? Is it someone who does not run out of bullets or a person who is running out of facemasks and yet continues to give medicines and care for dying patients?
Who is truly for the people, who is the real hero, who do we truly need today? Is it a person who will shoot the hungry, or a person who feeds a hungry stranger despite being hungry too? Control. The virus has shattered all our controls, and God has refused to control the events. God has allowed the events to unfold in total obedience, in total humility, in total love. I have a priest friend who shared with me some lines of a poem he wrote, and I wish to share also with you:
Dare to surrender your hold on yourself
Dare to feel as if you are of no use.
Dare to listen to others speaking.
Dare to learn to accept others.
Dare to reach out to a broken heart.
Dare to go closer, don’t be afraid of being burned.
Dare to break a record of hard work
Dare to love and be a friend.
The essence of Palm Sunday is that God dared to give up His power and became a slave like us. On this Palm Sunday, we cannot enter the Church, cannot go to the Church, cannot bring palms. We can still have Palm Sunday even without the palm leaves, but we cannot have a meaningful Palm Sunday if we do not know how to dare to let go. If do not know how to take risks, to empty ourselves, to dare until you break your heart, to move closer but not fear being burned, my dear brothers and sisters, Palm Sunday teaches us control is an illusion. God did not save us by controlling us. God saved us by emptying Himself by total obedience, by totally forgetting Himself, by totally loving us. May we learn to dare to forget ourselves and to live for others.