Today marks the beginning of Jesus’ journey to the cross, and, ultimately, to his resurrection. Though he enters Jerusalem today in triumph (Mark 11: 8 – 10), we know that in five-days’ time he will be tortured and condemned to a slow, painful death.
As Jesus enters the city, we hear the people “crying out: Hosanna!” (Mark 11: 9). “Hosanna” comes from an ancient Hebrew phrase that translates as, “save, we pray.” In other words, the people of Jerusalem are asking for deliverance, pleading for the Son of God to set them free from their suffering.
Jesus will make this same plea in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking God to deliver him from the pain of the Cross (Matthew 26: 39 & 42). That deliverance will not come – Jesus will be tortured and he will die.
In moments like these, we cry out like the Psalmist: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22: 2). Those who ridicule me, those who brutalize my body, surround me on all sides, but God doesn’t seem to be here (Psalm 22: 2, 8, & 17). How do we respond to painful times like these? One way is prayer.
Our Catholic tradition gives us many ways to meditate on suffering and death. One way is the “Stations of the Cross.” By praying the “Stations,” we make a spiritual pilgrimage through the scenes of Christ’s passion. When we do this, we unite our pain to Jesus’ pain and grow closer to him.
Opening yourself up to other people’s pain is one of the most powerful ways you can love them. It’s one of the ways God chose to love us. In the 1980s in the Philippines, Columban Father Vinny Busch wanted his parishioners to experience the pain of something they neglected: the Philippines rainforest. Modeled after the “Stations of the Cross,” he developed the “Stations of the Forest,” designed to lament the stages in the death of a part of God’s creation.
Fr. Busch’s “Stations of the Forest” reminds us that the same forces that crucified Jesus continue to crucify today. As Pope Francis said during his 2016 visit to Colombia: “you want to place all your suffering, and that of the thousands of victims, at the feet of Jesus Crucified, so that united to his suffering, it may be transformed into blessing and forgiveness so as to break the cycle of violence.”
Just like the Philippines rainforest, the Amazon rainforest is experiencing its own crucifixion. Over the past 50 years, extractives and other industries have destroyed twenty percent of it. Extractives contribute not only to deforestation, but also to water pollution. In one community with a gold mine, the fish local peoples eat test positive for mercury. These projects also forcibly remove indigenous communities from their ancestral homelands.
In 2014, the Catholic Church in Pan-Amazonia founded a Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network – REPAM – as “God’s answer to this heartfelt and urgent need to care for the life of people so they are able to live in harmony with nature.” Pope Francis knows that the Amazon rainforest is vital for the health of life on Earth, calling it one of the “richly biodiverse lungs of our planet.” Today, as we listen to “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” let us remember the plea of those who greeted Jesus in Jerusalem: “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest” (Mark 11: 10). Deliver us, Lord, from our suffering.
Meditate on the wounds of the Earth are united to your wounds and Jesus’ wounds. Which natural habits in your area – be it a forest, a mountain range, a wetland – are being crucified?
For your convenience, you may choose to download a print "Worship Aid." This aid is a compilation of the weekly scripture reflections found in the calendar. By providing these reflections in a booklet format, we hope to enrich your weekly worship experience. You can download the PDF here.
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