Wow, it's hard to believe that Lent is almost over. My prayer is that you have all had as spiritually fruitful of a Lenten journey as I have. As we wrap up this Liturgical season and prepare for Christ's resurrection, we can't overlook the reality of the price Jesus paid to achieve so glorious a triumph.
Having grown up Catholic, and being passionately involved in the life of the Church, I can't even count how many times I've seen a crucifix. How many times I've heard "Jesus died for you." How many times I've read the crucifixion account in the Gospels. I'm ashamed to admit that I've often become so "used to" the fact that Jesus was crucified and died for me, that I don't truly embrace the reality of what that means for my life. I've sometimes forgotten why he went through all the pain and dereliction. And even now, as I reflect on it more deeply, the words sound tired, overused. Jesus died for me so my sins could be forgiven. Jesus died for me because he loved me. Even if I were the only person in the world, Jesus still would have gone through his agonizing Passion. These statements can at times, strike me profoundly, and at other times, fall on my ears as casually and familiarly as a jingle for a car commercial. And I'm ashamed.
I think if I lived in a reality without so great a Savior... a reality which held no hope for everlasting life with God... a reality where Jesus never came into the world for us... I probably could not even fathom the idea of being bored with the Paschal mystery.
This Lent, I have found the only way to combat this numbness to Christ's Passion is to go back in time. Place myself into the time of Jesus, and truly become a disciple. I've been meditating deeply on the Scriptures and have found myself particularly moved by the Gospel stories of Jesus' encounters with people during his time. Oftentimes, we are asked to imagine what it must have felt like for people to be in Jesus' presence. But I say, can you imagine how Jesus must have felt in their presence? What did he go through? What kind of emotions did he experience? You see, it's not so hard for me to put myself in the shoes of the woman at the well, full of shame and loneliness, or of Martha and Mary, mourning and longing for Jesus to show up, or of Peter, desperately seeking to be a true disciple, yet struggling with his own fears and insecurities. It's not hard for me to put myself in their shoes, because I have been all those people, at one point in my life or another. And I don't have to wonder what it must have felt like to stand in the presence of Jesus, because this I have also done, each time I adore the Lord and receive Him in the Holy Eucharist.
But to put myself in Christ's shoes... now that is another thing altogether. For although he was not only human, human he indeed was. And as Scripture tells us, he did not find equality with God something to be grasped at, in other words, something to utilize to escape his captors or ease his suffering, but rather humbled himself taking the form of a servant, being made human. He became obedient to DEATH, even death on a cross. For me, it has often been easy to diminish the pain of the Cross by saying, "Yea, it's awful, but I mean... he was GOD. He could handle it." And again, I am ashamed. For all the times I have sinned, and thereby taken up with the soldiers who drove the nails into Jesus' hands, for all the times I have doubted and tested God, like those who mocked him saying "Save yourself," for all the times I have just been too timid or lazy to defend my Lord, like those who just stood by and watched him be crucified... I am ashamed.
This year, I choose a different role.
As we remember and partake in the Last Supper tonight, and the Passion tomorrow, I challenge you to see these events through the eyes of our Lord, Jesus. Be with him; console him. Many of his closest friends did not even do this for him. They betrayed him, fell asleep on him, fled from him... denied him. May we choose wisely and rightly this year who we will be during his trials. Let us walk with him, wipe his tears, share his cross, and follow him to the very foot of it with John and his holy Mother. Let us share in his cross intimately, that we may all the more joyously celebrate his triumph over it!
I wish you all a blessed Triduum and look forward to sharing in the joy of Christ's glorious resurrection with you this Sunday!