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The tolerance of the passion

The Sunday Lenten Masses always seem to remind us that, despite the darkness of fasting and other acts of self-denial so characteristic of the season, there is always hope!

The midpoint of Lent gave us a glimpse of light when dark violet colored vestments gave way to rose while we remembered how Jesus restored light to the eyes of a man born blind. Even on the Sunday that begins Holy Week, hope is shown in the midst of darkness.

On Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, the Liturgy begins with joy when palms are waved at and placed beneath the Lord who rides a beast of burden to exclamations of “hosanna,” “save us, Savior!”

The people must have heard that the Jesus who makes the blind see and raised the dead is coming to town. And yet by the end of the Liturgy sadness creeps in as the same man spills His Blood on a Cross.

The passionate love God has for us runs through assuming humanity and suffering its worst treatment all the way through death. In all of this, Jesus shows exceptional tolerance of the people He is trying to save.

By the standards of today, Jesus could have been called intolerant: He expunged the temple of commerce in anger, He frequently grew impatient at the slowness with which His followers understood, and described situations in which some would be excluded such as when He told the parable of the five maidens who came to Him unprepared and were told they could not enter His feast.

Yet He welcomed, ate with, and included those the law did not allow by forgiving their sins.

The Palm Sunday Liturgy reminds us through its red colors that all of this led to a cruel end, but which we know gave way to a great joy. Jesus’ tolerance might best be seen in His endurance, not in His gestures or standards, the beauty of which lies in each beholder.

Whereas tolerance has become a catch-all word invoked to encourage the intolerant into acceptance of a never-ending list of diverse forms of expression, the tolerance Jesus exhibits could be called one of endurance and encouragement.

In a culture which praises toleration of every indulgence, it is difficult to appreciate the voice of one who encourages His listeners to greater self-denial. The “save us” chant from Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem becomes “save-us-from Him” because of the self-certainty His persecutors had in calling for Jesus’ execution.

The Holy Week Liturgy would have us consider these points in its beautiful prayers describing Jesus’ sufferings because of unjust condemnation while reminding us of His willingness to pardon any and all when they show their belief.

The rich Liturgies of Holy Week are a school in which God encourages His people with the promise that if we endure with Him, then His forgiveness is assured.

Too much praise of ourselves could lead the way of those who do harm, but Jesus’ example gives us encouragement to never stop growing. Unlike belief in bunnies that bring candy on holidays, the human person never outgrows belief in the path Jesus shows. All the believer must do when they make a mistake is to look to Jesus and, like St. Thomas, say “my Lord and my God!”

Fortunately this opportunity arises each time we see the Lord in the Eucharistic celebration that is the Mass.

FATHER BRYAN BABICK is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston. Email him at: bbabick@catholic-doc.org.

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