Year B: Fifth Sunday of Lent

Second Reading: Hebrews 5: 7-9


The theme of suffering and its potential to redeem is explored again in this Second Reading.


We are reminded that, faced with suffering, Jesus’ reaction was exactly the same as that of every person who has ever lived. It fills him with fear - terror even. He begs God to take the cup away - to find any other way - but to spare him the agony and degradation of death by crucifixion. We have no idea how long this anguish of mind, heart and spirit lasted - how long it took Jesus to work through all the overwhelming emotions. We do know that, eventually, he was able to discern that it had to be this way - and to come to an acceptance and obedience.


It was through this obedience - even to death on a cross - that made him the source of our eternal salvation. His love for God was so deeply etched in his heart that it was, in the end, to break it - not negatively, but so that there was nothing now between the love between Father and Son.


This example deepens the theme of how suffering can open us up to the love of God. Jesus’ example shows us that this is never easy - even for the Son of God. He does not short-circuit the process of agony and pain - nor does he ask us to.


When faced with suffering of any kind, we are allowed, like Jesus to admit to fear - to beg God to take it away - all the things we are familiar with when we face pain or suffering. We can be angry with God - we can even stop believing in God for a while. We are allowed to ask “Why?”


But we are not allowed to stay there - to wallow in our misery - to become bitter. As followers of Jesus, there has to be the moment when we contemplate his agony in the garden - his intense suffering in the Passion. Then we have to decide - which path are we to follow? The path of anger and bitterness - or the path that accepts the broken-heartedness. Jesus is our guide on this path. He has been where we are - he knows how we feel - and, if we put out a hand in faith, he will lead us beyond the suffering into eternal life.

What does it mean for me?

Suffering is not something we choose - but is part of life. How can we learn from Jesus’ example?

How can we prepare ourselves emotionally and spiritually for times of suffering?

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