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Even Suffering and Death Cannot Overpower God's Love For Us | A Palm Sunday Homily | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers | April 5, 2009 | Ignatius Insight

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Why did Jesus have to die?

God wanted to show us, once and for all, that despite our sin He loves us and wants to save us. "By embracing in His human heart the Father's love for men," [1] Jesus showed us that by freely choosing to do the Father's will, by freely choosing what is good, what is true, what is beautiful, that even suffering and death cannot overpower God's love for us.

God literally loves us to death. In his suffering and death, Christ's humanity became the free and perfect instrument of the Father's divine love, which desires our salvation. [2] He sent His only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is True God from True God, to die in order to show us that in freely giving up that which is most precious to us, our very lives, in order to do the Father's will that God will give us everlasting life. Jesus shows us that even in the darkest hour of our lives, God's love knows no end. Even in the hardships of everyday life, God's love knows no bounds. Even in our suffering and death, God's love holds nothing back.

But God does not ask all of us to suffer physical death for His sake. All He asks is that we freely choose to die to our own sinful actions, our own selfish desires, to sacrifice those things that do not lead us to our Ultimate End. God knows that this is not always easy for us but if we really and truly desire intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father then we must be receptive and obedient to His love and will, and we can only do this when we humble ourselves and become reconciled with Him through the Cross of Jesus Christ. God sent his Son, Jesus the Carpenter, to give us the tools of grace and faith, together with His own Body and Blood to strengthen us as we carry the cross in our own lives.

The Lord Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, preached the truth and they killed him. Many saints of the Church, like Saints Agnes, Lucy, and Perpetua, were brutally tortured and killed because they would not compromise their most beloved and prized possession—the great gift of their Catholic faith.

Yet today, almost on a daily basis, we hear of so-called "Catholic" politicians and institutions of higher education that undermine and ignore their Catholic identity for thirty pieces of silver. Christ did not die so that his teachings could be changed by the culture: Christ died so that his Love and his Truth could change the world! We, in turn, must die to the ways of this world so that Christ can live in us. The question we must ask ourselves is this: if it were still a crime today to be a follower of Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

Here is the truth: the Lord God suffered and died to save us from sin and death therefore we are not disgraced! Salvation does not come from us willing it; salvation comes from only one Source: the One True God--the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of Peter, James and John; the God of Muslims, Jews and Atheists—and He is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ!

He is the God of Isaiah, who foretold His coming and who tells us that the Savior gave his back to those who beat him, his cheeks to those who plucked his beard, his face to buffets and spitting. He is the God of Saint Paul who tells us that His name is above every other name, and that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven, on earth and in Hell, and that every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.

When we compromise our Catholic faith out of arrogance, we join our voices to an anemic culture that shouts, "Crucify Him!"

When we start believing in the false god of our misinformed conscience, we join with this culture of death in driving the nails deeper into the body of Christ.

When we substitute our religious faith for a nebulous "spirituality" that ignores the Holy Eucharist as the source and center of our faith, we look up at the crucified Christ and say with the Scribes and Pharisees, "Save Yourself."

The truth and beauty of Sacred Scripture cries out to us loud and clear that the idols of men are merely silver and gold, the work of human hands. The psalmist describes the fruits of this culture: "they have mouths but they cannot speak; they have eyes but they cannot see; they have ears but they cannot hear ... no sound comes from their throats. Their makers will come to be like them and so will all who trust in them." [3]

My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is the Holy Spirit that allows the seed of faith to take root and grow in us, and if we freely and lovingly cooperate with what God wants to do in us, our lives will bear much fruit. Like the woman who broke the jar of oil over Jesus, we must break ourselves open and pour ourselves out in love before the Lord.

Sometimes this means picking-up our cross and following Christ with the understanding that living the Truth--that being the people who God created us to be, made in His image and likeness--means setting our faces like flint knowing that we shall not be put to shame. [4] It is in these moments--in the total offering of ourselves in love to the Other, in the sublime moment of complete giftedness--that we discover it is in giving ourselves away that we truly find ourselves.


[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 609.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Psalm 115.
[4] Cf. Isaiah 50:7.

Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles, Excerpts, & Interviews:

The Truth of the Resurrection | Excerpts from Introduction to Christianity | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The Cross — For Us | Hans Urs von Balthasar
The Question of Suffering, The Response of the Cross | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Resurrection and Real Justice | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Easter: The Defiant Feast | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Easter Delivers Us From Evil | Carl E. Olson
The Easter Triduum: Entering into the Paschal Mystery | Carl E. Olson
The Paradox of Good Friday | Carl E. Olson

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, MTS is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, and the founder of Aurem Cordis, an apostolate dedicated "to promote the truth and beauty of the gospel by encouraging others to submit themselves freely to the life-giving love of the Trinity and to become living witnesses to that love in the world." Deacon Burke-Sivers gives talks around the country on spirituality, family life, lay vocations, and other topics, and has appeared on "Catholic Answers Live", EWTN, and many local television and radio programs. He has a BA in economics from Notre Dame and an MTS from the University of Dallas. He, his wife Colleen, and their four children live in Portland, Oregon.

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