(Palm Sunday: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:15—27:66)
The first time I participated in the afternoon Eucharistic procession on the Holy Mountain of La Salette was in the late 1960s. At the end, everyone knelt on the unpaved ground, with their arms extended in the form of a cross, and sang: “Spare, O Lord, your people, and be not angry with us forever.”
This was an act of “reparation,” a then popular form of devotion, which consisted in doing something painful or uncomfortable as a way of atoning for sin, and making up for unrepentant “poor sinners.”
Our Lady of La Salette said: “However much you pray, however much you do, you will never be able to repay the pains I have taken for you.” This kind of challenge further encouraged the reparation movement that already existed.
Imposing on oneself a share in the sufferings of Christ is a way of participating in his redemptive act, which in turn was the great act of Atonement toward his Father. Jesus “humbled himself,” St. Paul writes. As the Suffering Servant Jesus refused to defend himself, as we see in Matthew’s account of the Passion.
In wearing a large crucifix, the Beautiful Lady draws our attention to Jesus’ Passion and death. She who, in Luke’s Gospel, calls herself the “handmaid of the Lord” and God’s “lowly servant,” appeared humbly in an attitude of weakness, weeping in front of two children, two strangers.
The Passion according to St. John, which we will hear on Good Friday, describes the scene of Mary at the foot of the cross. Here was fulfilled the prophecy of Simeon: “You yourself a sword shall pierce” (Luke 2:35). She participated intimately in his redemptive suffering.
In Colossians 1:24 St. Paul writes: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” Theologians disagree on the exact meaning of the text, but we find an echo of it in Mary’s message: “How long a time I have suffered for you!”
Jesus suffered for us. Mary suffers for us. Can we not choose to enter, in some way, into their suffering?