Sunday, April 1, 2012

Our Enemies Give Us The Victory

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week in which we commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ when he suffered and died to redeem us from sin.  This is the holiest week of the year in the Liturgical Calendar.  Palm Sunday is that day in which Our Lord entered Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of the scripture from Zachariah 9:9:  "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold thy king will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass."  Jesus was greeted with great rejoicing by those who had just seen him raise Lazarus from the dead.  But in only a few short days, many of these same people would be shouting for his death.  But if these people had not been calling for the death of our Lord, it is possible that we would not have a Saviour.  Read on for an explanation.

The Romans force Simon of Cyrene
to assist Jesus in carrying the Cross
In meditating upon the Stations of the Cross, I have always found the 5th Station, in which the Romans force Simon of Cyrene to assist Jesus in carrying the cross, to be very ironic.  The Romans did not force Simon of Cyrene to assist Jesus out of any compassion for our Suffering Lord.  It was to keep Jesus alive long enough to get Him to Calvary where they could nail Him to a Cross and crucify Him.  Yet, it was the Romans and Jews, the ones who wanted Jesus dead and out of the way, who were the people who enabled Jesus to successfully fulfill his mission of dying on the Cross and redeeming mankind.  The Apostle Peter, who professed great love and devotion to our Lord, actually tried to stop Jesus from dying, and our Lord's response to Peter was to call him Satan.  If Peter had been successful, we would not have a Saviour. 

I always took this lesson of the assistance of Simon of Cyrene to mean that often those who declare themselves our avowed enemies and seek only our destruction can sometimes be the very ones who will give us the help we need to succeed in gaining eternal life.  Those who love us the most are sometimes the ones who are more harmful to us in the long run.

In the traditional breviary today, there is a sermon from St. Leo the Pope in which he describes this ironic scenario in which Satan, by stirring up such hatred against Jesus, actually defeated himself.  It was Satan's intense desire to destroy Jesus through the Jews that Jesus was crucified and defeated our arch enemy and redeemed us from his hands.  As St. Leo says in his sermon:
But he was undone by his own malice. For he brought upon the Son of God that death which is become life to all the sons of man. He shed that innocent blood which was to become at once the price of our redemption and the cup of our salvation.
Here is the entire sermon.  Evil can never defeat our Lord, who actually uses evil to defeat itself.

The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Leo the Pope

Dearly beloved, the Solemnity of the Lord's Passion is come ; that day which we have so desired, and which same is so precious to the whole world. Shouts of spiritual triumph are ringing, and suffer not that we should be silent. Even though it be hard to preach often on the same solemnity, and do so meetly and well, a priest is not free to shirk the duty of preaching to the faithful concerning this so great mystery of divine mercy. Nay, that his subject-matter is unspeakable should in itself make him eloquent, since where enough can never be said, there must needs ever be something to say. Let human weakness, then, fall down before the glory of God, and acknowledge itself unequal to the duty of expounding the works of his mercy. Let us toil in thought, let us fail in insight, let us falter in speech ; it is good for us to feel how inadequate is the little we are able to express concerning the majesty of God.

For when the Prophet saith : Seek the Lord and his strength ; seek his face evermore : let no man thence conclude that he will ever find all that he seeketh. For if he cease his seeking, he will likewise cease to draw near. But among all the works of God which weary the stedfast gaze of man's wonder, what is there that doth at once so ravish and so exceed the power of our contemplation as the Passion of the Saviour? He it was who, to loose mankind from the bonds of the death-dealing Fall, spared to bring against the rage of the devil the power of the divine Majesty, and met him with the weakness of our lowly nature. [Christ defeated Satan not with the nature of God, but with His lowly and weak Human Nature, a most cruel defeat for the Evil One.]  For if our cruel and haughty enemy could have known the counsel of God's mercy, it had been his task rather to have softened the hearts of the Jews into meekness, than to have inflamed them with unrighteous hatred. Thus he might not have lost the thraldom of all his slaves, by attacking the liberty of the One that owed him nothing.  [If Satan had not been blinded by his hatred of God and Goodness, he would have realized that allowing Christ to live would have given him victory. Killing Christ gave the victory to our Lord.] 

He shed that innocent blood which was to become at once the price of our redemption and the cup of our salvation. [It was our enemy, who wants all of us dead, who shed the Precious Blood that gives us Life.]  Wherefore the Lord hath received that which according to the purpose of his own good pleasure he hath chosen. And such was his loving-kindness, even for his murderers, that his prayer to his Father from the Cross asked not vengeance for himself but forgiveness for them.
The next time you are on the receiving end of persecution or cruelty and hatred of any sort, remember, this may very well be what will help you to gain eternal life. 

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