We are gathered together here in solemn preparation for the Easter Passover of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, and, on hearing St. Luke’s account of our Lord’s Passion and Death we have been struck by the horror of His sufferings and by His wondrously patient endurance. Embracing the Cross, on the left hand by His total commitment to us and, on the right hand by His absolute trust in and love for His Father, He was, ultimately Himself, resting in the peace and joy of total fulfilment as our Redeemer and as the only-begotten Son of the Father.
Now, having listened reverently to that Gospel reading, let us turn our attention from the Lord to ourselves, His disciples; and, searching our self-awareness as honestly and dispassionately as we can, did we perhaps find that reading at times rather long and perhaps a little wearisome? If so, that can be a humbling and somewhat depressing acknowledgement, in so far as we tend to think that if we were proper Catholics, if we were true disciples, we would not just hear of that holy event and find such hearing long and taxing, but rather would we experience it with hearts filled with deep sorrow and ardent longing. And, inevitably, we vaguely fear that our lack of emotional involvement betrays some hidden fault or even serious failings on our part.
Let us, therefore, take a closer look at such unwanted weariness which can obtrude itself upon us at times when we would much prefer to experience fervent devotion.
First of all, we should be clear in our minds that we are here, above all, not to get emotional rewards for ourselves but to give ourselves, through devotion, whole-heartedly to God: those wretched words, ‘I don't seem to be getting anything out of it’, should never be part our thinking.
To that end, we need to be clear in our minds about the difference between emotion and devotion for they are not the same, nor are they necessarily found together. Emotions express and affect our natural feelings, whereas devotion is the sign and measure of our supernatural commitment; moreover, our emotions are largely instinctive and self-centred whereas devotion is subject to our will and centred on God. Devotion can, most certainly, benefit greatly when backed-up by the appropriate power of emotions; however, devotion is not necessarily diminished by the absence of emotions; indeed, devotion can be at its greatest when deprived of them. Emotion, alone, is of no worth, its function is to assist what is more worthy than itself; devotion, on the other hand, is always solely and supremely commendable before God
Dear People of God, it is essential for us to recognize that we are sinners and that God alone is holy. All the good we have, all that we can have, is His gift to us. Therefore, we must never be surprised at our own weariness, dryness, or lack of emotional feelings on occasions like today, for that is a true, indeed the truest picture of us, for we are, of ourselves, barren and fruitless.
As Christians, however, our attention and expectation are centred on God. He is good, and He has given His own Son to save us from our sinfulness. What we have to try to do is what the Suffering Servant, in the first reading, shows us:
Each morning (he woke) to listen like a disciple to the Lord, making no resistance nor turning away.
Jesus woke like that, immediately; He was always immediately and most lovingly in His Father’s presence, listening, watching, and waiting. We, however, can hope to grow in such wonderfully Filial dispositions by learning from the Scriptures and putting ourselves into the presence of God, obtruding ourselves on Jesus, as did, first of all, the blind beggar Bartimaeus (Luke 18) who so humbly and courageously drew Jesus’ attention to himself, a nobody, despite the hostility of the crowd; or, as did Zacchaeus (Luke 19), an important civic figure in this case who, because he was short of stature, humbled himself -- despite the hostile mockery of onlookers – by resorting to climb a roadside tree that he might at least catch a glimpse of Jesus passing by on the road beneath.
And that, indeed, is what we are, in fact, doing here today: we have put ourselves in Jesus’ way, waiting and listening in case He might turn His gaze, see us, and speak to us as He did to blind Bartimaeus, or even come to dwell a little with us as He did in the case of Zacchaeus. If He does neither of those things, we should have no complaint, it is His will and we have no claims on Him: whatever He does, we know that He does it for our true good and that He is right. If, on the other hand, He does turn His glance our way, then we should gratefully accept those ardent emotions by using them as a spur to our devotion, endeavouring thereby to give ourselves back, in Jesus, to God our Father more completely and more wholeheartedly than ever before.
Dear People of God, never let feelings engross you who seek to be true disciples of Jesus; for ultimately, it is only the straight and sure path of true devotion that follows Jesus heavenward; our emotions, on the other hand, can sometimes be like flowers bordering that path and rejoicing our hearts; or, at other times -- and perhaps more frequently – they can be like stones that would hinder us by cluttering the way or upsetting our balance.