Children like stories with happy endings. They want to hear that the princess was rescued from her captors and that the bully in school got a taste of his own medicine. They want to see lost children reunited with their parents and to watch the outcast, who barely made the team, score the winning goal. They want to read that the mom suffering with cancer was healed and that the “bad guys” were caught and punished.
Children like stories with happy endings and so do adults. We do not like stories where good people end up losing, where darkness overcomes the light. We do not want that to happen in the stories we read or the movies we watch. And we certainly do not want that to happen in real life. We want situations in our lives to have happy endings.
We want to learn that the biopsy was negative. We want our boss to announce we got the promotion. We want our friends to be loyal and supportive and our children to be happy and successful.
But situations in life do not always end on a happy note.
Certainly, this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 14:1-15:47) for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion has no happy ending.
Jesus is betrayed by Judas, one of his closest disciples, and then deserted by his friends when he is arrested in the garden.
He is falsely accused before the religious authorities and declared guilty of blasphemy by the high priest.
Jesus is denied three times by Peter who swore he would always remain loyal no matter the circumstances. He listens as the crowd who had hailed him as the long-awaited Messiah cries for his crucifixion.
He hears the Roman governor give in to the demands of the crowd even though Pilate cannot discover “What evil has he done?”
Jesus is then whipped, ridiculed, and led through the streets to the place of execution. There he is nailed to a cross that puts him on display before a crowd of haters as his blood drains away and he dies.
In that story of the Passion there are no happy endings at any time. No one speaks up for Jesus. No one comes to his rescue. No one saves him at the last moment.
The story ends with the unhappiest of endings.
Perhaps that Gospel teaches us that as much as we might wish it, every situation in our lives does not have a happy ending. It teaches us that the good do not escape suffering. It teaches us that darkness can overcome the light and “bad guys” can win. It teaches us that God does not act like a superhero who arrives at the last minute to make sure everything turns out right.
Life is not a series of situations filled with happy endings – not even for those who strive to be faithful to God. If it was not like that for Jesus, the most perfect, loving, and faithful Son of God, why should we expect it to be like that for us.
But while this life does not always have its happy endings, we know that ultimately there is a happy ending. That is the message that we celebrate next Sunday, Easter Sunday, and it is the message that we proclaim each time we gather at the altar of the Lord.
We all like stories with happy endings, and so does God. God writes that happy ending in the pages of eternity.
© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski