God is real in the midst of suffering

Fr. Anthony Le

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to dialogue with our parents in our community. She brought up a very serious concern among our young people. Perhaps, many of us belong here at Saint Joseph. She recalls how her children participated in catholic school, in faith formation, went through all of those programs, for confirmation as well. And yet just after a year into college, she decided the faith of the church is no longer needed - there's no God. Now, she came back home, having two other siblings. She tells them that there's no God, there's no need for God. Because everything we need, we could have, everything we want we could have also. there's no need for God whatsoever. Now, the younger sister decided that this year, she may not receive confirmation because she has no need of God, and he's not real. therefore, no need for confirmation that would be a lie. Obviously, the mother was very, very distraught. and she gave me an answer that perhaps we could all reflect upon, in light of the gospel today.

All my children never experienced a single difficult day in their life. They did not know what suffering meant. They did not know when you need God, and how meaningful God is for us. Remind you, this is a mother who belonged to a family that decided to escape vietnam. The chance of success is almost zero. Belong to the boat people, who experience the suffering and horror of war, Horror of being a refugee. Being out there in the middle of the ocean, relying only on God for survival. the group of people who appreciate life and God, all because of suffering and pain they endure. Instead of complaining, instead of condemning, instead of denying God, they say God is real in the midst of suffering.

So my dear brothers and sisters, today on this palm sunday, when we started out our procession with a prayer, and we thank God because we thanks to his invitation, thanks to his death on the cross, thanks to the cross that we become partakers of the cross, and therefore partakers of God's resurrection. We thank him for the cross precisely. and in today's gospel we see that in the midst of suffering, we really understand how weak we are, how terrible sins are - both physical and moral evils. how terrible they are. At the same time, we experience the need for salvation. because we could not really face death alone without trembling. and yet on the other side of suffering, thanks to our lord Jesus order yes to the heavenly father's plan. through the cross he unveils the mystery of suffering, that our lord let us know. In the midst of suffering, we encounter also the loving and the merciful God. how many times our lord Jesus asked us to take up the cross and follow me. The cross of our lord today, let me remind you, it is not just wood that he has to carry on his shoulders, it is not the wooden beam that he has to carry. That is just the visible sign of what actually makes him carry the crust of our sins. the heavy weight of our rejection.

look at peter, look at judas, look at those who calling on him, crucify him, crucify him after witnessing every beautiful things that he had done, how many lives he has saved, how many people he fed, and how many beautiful teachings, how many broken souls he has saved, and yet they crucify him, crucify him. That is the weight of the cross on his shoulders. My dear brothers and sisters, and that what it looks like to carry a cross? it is the man who rejected him, it is a disciple who turned away from him, it is the woman who was caught in adultery ,it is the samaritan woman who lives an immortal life, it is you and I that he carries on our and his shoulders.

let's be honest, let's name the cross of our life at this moment, so that we know that in a minute of suffering, we could truly encounter and understand that God is truly real. he's not fictional character produced by hollywood, or greek methodology, or ancient hebrew story that's no longer relevant to our life. He's real in the midst of suffering. because in the midst of suffering, the one who crucified him on the cross knelt down, and proclaimed this man is truly innocent, and he is truly God. Amazing isn't it.

So what is the cross in our life? could it be your friend who betrayed us, could it be a young child addicted to media, could that be a husband who's no longer faithful, could it be ourselves, the sins that we committed, could it be everything that witnessed in the world, could it be the cross made by satan, could it be the cross made by our political leaders, could it be cross that we fabricated by our own imagination, our own ideologies. So my dear brothers and sister whatever the cross looked like, or at the shape, and it weighs, our lord Jesus is saying today. you don't have to carry it alone. We don't have to carry it alone, we don't have to be doomed by it. we could carry along with our lord. He has carried it to the end. and at this moment in time, in this beautiful season of lant, and we enter into the holy week. Let's once again be reminded of the fact that God so loved the world that he took up the cross, embraced it, kissed it, to let you know, let us know, that we are worth dying for. Our dignity, our power, our glory, rest upon this only single act on the cross - The love of our lord has gone all the way to the end to save you and save me.

so my dear brothers and sisters, as we suffer through life, as we identify the cross in our life, don't forget that our lord is on the cross also crying out to the father. Father forgive them for what they know not, forgive them for what they have done to you, and to me, and to one another, forgive them because they are your children. Our lord is continually inviting you and I to forgive one another. just like simon who carried along with our lord Jesus, just like Jesus in need of consolation by his own mother, and those who stood at the foot of the cross. we need one another, we need God along the journey of life.

The same people who say we don't need God are among the people who are most lonely. I'm talking about our teens, our young adults, the people supposed to be connected, but the ones who feel most lonely and desperate, among the highest depression rates. so my brothers and sisters, denying God doesn't make them happier, walking away from the faith doesn't make them more connected. So it's our responsibility to live through the suffering of life, to offer ourselves a sacrificial offering to God. and therefore, unveil the beautiful face of our lord merciful, loving, and kind. Let's do it together as a community of faith which is doing Hosanna in the highest. The one who walks in through the Jerusalem gate as a king. No not just that, we should wholesand him today and forever. Everywhere we go. Let's make it real, let's make it tangible, and let's make it amazingly attractive. Only then, can we listen to the promise of our lord to the thief "Today you will be with me in paradise". Suffering leads to admission of our need for Christ, and when we open our eyes and hearts for him, heaven is guaranteed.

在苦難中體驗真實的主

昨天,我與一個教友家庭的家長談話。他們非常擔憂我們下一代年輕人的信仰。許多聖若瑟教友的家庭有可能有著同樣的顧慮。她的女兒在天主教學校中受教育,參加了所有的信仰課程,也完成了堅振聖事。然而就在上大學一年後,她決定離開教會,因為她認為天主並不存在。她回家,並且告訴兩個兄弟姐妹說,沒有天主,我們也不需要天主。因為我們需要的,都可以取得。我們想要的,也可以擁有。所以根本就不需要天主。現在,妹妹決定今年她不參加堅振了,因為她不需要天主,天主也不存在。不需要堅振,因為那本來就是個騙局。顯然的,他們的母親非常的心煩意亂。她給了我一個解釋。或許經由這個解釋,並藉著福音的光照,我們可以得到深切的反思。

她說:我的孩子們從未經歷過一天的艱難。他們不知道苦難是什麼。他們不知道為什麼需要天主,也不知道天主有多麽重要。說這個故事的是一位越南難民家庭的母親。在那時候,逃難成功的機會幾乎是零。他們是船民,經歷過戰爭的災難和痛苦,難民的恐懼。身處大海中,唯一生存下來的希望就是依靠天主。這群珍爱生命和天主的人,都經歷並且忍受過苦難。他們不抱怨,不譴責,不否認,反而在苦難中體驗出真實的天主。

親愛的兄弟姐妹們,今天是聖枝主日,我們以祈禱開始我們的遊行。我們感謝天主,,感謝祂在十字架上受苦難而死,感謝祂邀請我們參與十字架的聖死,讓我們與主的複活有分。是的,我們正是要感謝這十字架。今天的福音讓我們看到在苦難中,我們是多麽的軟弱,我們身體和道德上的罪惡是多麼的可怕。我們體驗到需要天主的拯救。因為我們顫抖驚悸,無法獨自面對死亡。然而,在苦難的另一面,感謝主耶穌順從了天父的計劃。通過十字架,祂揭示了苦難的奧秘。在苦難中,我們與慈愛的天主相遇。在福音裡主耶穌不斷地要我們背起十字架來跟隨祂 ?主扛的這個十字架不只是一根木頭,或是木樑。祂背負的是我們罪孽,是我們拒絕天主的沉重負擔。

讓我們看看伯多祿,看看猶達斯,看看那些呼求祂的人,那些把祂釘在十字架上的人。他們見證了祂所做的每一件事,拯救了多少生命,餵養了多少人,講授了多少美好的教義,卻釘死了祂。在祂拯救了許多破碎的靈魂後,卻把祂釘在十字架上。這就是祂肩上十字架所負的重擔。親愛的兄弟姐妹們,這就是揹負十字架的意義。祂揹負的是那個拒絕他的人,是背棄祂的弟子,是通奸的女人,是過著罪惡生命的撒瑪利亞女人,祂揹負的就是你和我,祂扛著我們在祂的肩膀上。

現在,讓我們來看看自己的十字架。當我們受苦的每一刻,我們在苦難中體驗到真實的主。祂不是電影中的虛構人物,也不在希臘的神話故事裡,也不在古老的希伯來故事中。祂是我們在苦難中體驗到的,真實的主。當主耶穌在被釘死在十字架的苦難中,那個把祂釘在十字架上的人,跪了下來,宣稱這個被釘死的人,是無辜的,是真天主。這真的是個令人意想不到的驚奇。

那麼,我們生命中的十字架是什麼呢?是背叛的朋友嗎?是沉迷於媒體的小孩嗎?是不再忠誠的丈夫嗎?是我們自己嗎?是我們犯下的罪嗎?是我們所看到的世俗嗎?是撒旦製造的嗎?是政治領袖製造的嗎?是我們的想像嗎?是我們的意識形態嗎?親愛的兄弟姐妹,無論這個十字架的形狀或重量,主耶穌告訴我們。“您不必單獨揹負它”。是的,我們不必獨自揹負它,我們不必被這個厄運所釘死。讓我們背著這個十字架與主同行。主耶穌會與我們在一起,堅持到底。此時此刻,在這美麗的四旬期,我們將進入聖週。別忘了這一件事實,就是天主如此的愛了這個世界,甚至背起了十字架,擁抱它,親吻它,並為我們死在十字架上。天主要讓我們知道,我們是值得的。我們的尊嚴,力量,榮耀,都依賴於在十字架上的這一個舉動。我們的主愛到最後,來拯救你,拯救我。

兄弟姐妹們,當我們受到苦難時,當我們要背十字架時,不要忘記,我們的主在十字架上也不斷地向天父為我們呼求:“父啊,請原諒他們,因為他們不知道他們所做的事,原諒他們對祢,對我,和對彼此所做的一切。原諒他們,因為他們是祢的孩子”。我們的主也邀請你和我互相原諒。主也需要我們的幫助。當主無法負重前行時,西滿幫著祂揹下去,在苦路中,耶穌的母親也安慰了祂,在十字架上,站在十字架腳下的人陪伴了祂。我們需要彼此扶持,在生命的旅途中我們需要天主。

那些說我們不需要天主的人,是最孤獨的。我指的是我們的青少年,我們的年輕人。他們應該受關懷。但他們卻是最孤獨和絕望的,是抑鬱症發病率最高的族群。否認天主不會讓他們更快樂,離開信仰也不會讓他們能得到更多的關懷。因此,我們有責任來度過人生的苦難,將我們自己作為向天主獻上的祭品。以此來揭開上主仁慈、關愛,善良,和美麗的容顏。讓我們一起做一個有信仰團體。一起讚頌「因上主之名而來的君王,應受讚頌!」。不僅如此,我們應該從今天起進行徹底的改造。讓我們所到之處。變得真實,有形,更有吸引力。只有這樣,我們才能賺得主對右盜的承諾「我實在告訴你:今天你就要與我一同在樂園裏。」苦難使我們承認我們需要天主,當我們被主耶穌睜開了眼睛和心靈時,就會得到與主耶穌一起在樂園裏的保證。