Palm Sunday – JOYFULLY SORROWFUL
Is. 50: 4-7 Phil. 2: 6-11 Lk. 22: 14 – 23: 56
Love is a paradox, not to be understood so much, but to be lived wholeheartedly.
Love and Its Paradox
With Palm Sunday, we are entering into a week in which love finds its maximum expression. Love is a strange phenomenon. Its success comes through failures; its happiness is founded on suffering; its greatness is embedded upon lowliness; it gets more by giving; it reaches high by going low. Erich Fromm, in his book The Art of Loving, writes, “The active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving and not receiving… giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending alive, hence as joyous. Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.”
It is this paradox of love that we remember and celebrate this week. We see two dominant moods running through today’s liturgy: One is that of victory and the other is that of melancholy. If in the first part of the liturgy, mood of victory is dominant, in the second part the mood of melancholy is prevailing. All that today’s liturgy as well as the liturgy of this week informs is that Jesus achieved greatness and fullness, not through the path of self-aggrandizement, but through the path of self-sacrifice, and that Jesus was exalted, not by going higher, but by going lower.
There is always a big gap between God’s thinking and human thinking. This gap exists in all respects, especially in our approach towards living our life meaningfully and fruitfully. All of us do take a lot of effort to make our lives more meaningful and fruitful. Our efforts are mostly centred around our self-will, our own rational mind and its ideas, getting things done according to our expectations etc.. We seem to believe that when everything happens in consonance with our little, limited mind and its promptings, life will be great. However God’s approach is entirely different. Though God wants all of us to have a fruitful life, the method God proposes is the renouncement of self-will and being critical of our rational mind which is the source of all types of egoistic thinking. The Holy Week is the intense period of time which informs us that what works is not the first method, but the second. Though it looks as if the first method takes us to a life of fullness, the truth is that it just takes us in the opposite direction. Though the second method looks to be in the opposite direction of what we seek, it is the right method.
It is the law of the Universe that it is the breaking that builds us up; it is by going lower we go higher; it is by sacrificing we possess. That is what love is and that is what cross is. On the one hand, cross is enigmatic to a rational and logical mind; it is a source of contradiction. But for those who have gone deeper into the mysteries of life, it is on the cross, all human contradictions disappear. Cross is the answer to all human longing and aspirations.
Love and Vicarious suffering:
Vicarious suffering is to accept another’s suffering in one’s own self on account of love and compassion. When Humaiyun, Babar’s son was seriously sick, it is said that Babar prayed to God that he would take his son’s suffering on himself. Humaiyun was healed and Babar died of the same sickness of his son.
Where there is love and compassion, there is the tendency to take upon the loved one’s suffering upon oneself. The Latin word for compassion is misericorida. It is the combination of two words: miser which means ‘sorrowful’ and cor which means ‘heart.’ In other words, compassion is to suffer from one’s heart for another. Jesus, out of his abundance of love for us, not only feels in his heart our suffering, but also takes our suffering upon himself and frees us from all consequences of sin.