There are 3 themes in today’s Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. The 1st theme is that, on the Cross, Jesus proves that he loves us perfectly. Jesus gave himself up to death out of love for us. He gave his body, his heart, his blood, his very life for us. Jesus can not improve on this greatest act of love. It is impossible for Jesus to find a better way to show us his love.
In his homily on Palm Sunday, the pope referred to his namesake St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis could never understand why his friars did not cry when they meditated on the crucifixion. The Pope continued, “What about us? Can we still be moved by God’s love? Have we lost the ability to be amazed by him? Let us gaze upon Jesus on the cross and say to him: ‘Lord, how much you love me! How precious I am to you!’ Let us be amazed by Jesus so that we can start living again, for the grandeur of life lies not in possessions and asserting oneself, but in realizing that we are loved.”
Later in our service, The Adoration of the Holy Cross will take place. As Fr. Raymond carries the Cross through the church, let us follow Pope Francis’ advice. Let us gaze upon the Cross and allow our hearts to be filled with amazement that God’s love is the 4 “uns”: unconditional, unlimited, unchanging and unending.
The 2nd theme is that this perfect love of God is stronger than death. We know that the wood of the Cross of Good Friday leads to the empty tomb of Easter morning. The wood of the Cross brings joy to the world. That’s the reason we refer to today as “Good” Friday.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has triumphed over death. Christ is stronger and more powerful than death. God loves us so much that he holds nothing back; He gives us everything, including a share in Jesus’ victory over death.
And that is the great good news of the gospels. This news is that, since Calvary, death no longer has the last word. The last word is life. The last word is that God did not make us for darkness and death, but rather, that we should live and be close to him for all eternity. The promise of our Christian faith is that death has been put to death.
As we gaze upon the Cross that Fr. Raymond will carry throughout the church, let us ask God for the grace to trust in that promise, particularly when we journey through challenging and difficult times.
The 3rd theme of today’s liturgy can best be summarized by a statement made by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: What Jesus wants is followers, not admirers. The point of discipleship is to imitate Jesus.
What does true imitation of Jesus look like?
St. John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic who lived from 1542- 1591.
In his view, we imitate Jesus when we have the same mind and heart as Jesus. We “put on Christ” when Jesus’ motivation becomes our motivation.
We enter real discipleship when we try to go through daily life with the same spirit as Jesus – namely, to willingly give of ourselves to others out of love, even though it may be unpopular and inconvenient.
At the end of February, a very public example was given to us about what it means to live this type of discipleship of laying down our lives in self-less service to others.
On Feb. 1, military forces in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, led a coup against the democratically elected government. Pro-democracy protests, followed by violent repressions by military armed forces, have rocked the country since this coup.
At the end of February, a Catholic nun from the religious congregation of St. Francis Xavier, took her call to be a follower of Jesus at all costs to a shocking level.
A group of armed police had started firing on a group of civilian protesters that included children. She went into the street and knelt down in front of the armed police. In tears, she begged them not to shoot and torture the children, but rather to shoot and to kill her instead.
According to the local Catholic newspaper, her courage “allowed over 100 protesters to find refuge in her convent. She saved them from a brutal beating, police arrest” and possibly, even death.
Most of us will not be called upon to risk our lives in such a drastic way. Make no mistake: to be a disciple of the Lord in 2021 is to be like Jesus: to die to self and to give one’s life in loving care, concern and compassion to those around us.
As we gaze upon the Cross that Fr. Raymond will carry throughout the church, let us ask Jesus to help us, to think as he would think, to speak as he would speak, to act as he would act, and most importantly, to love as he would love even though it will cost us.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
April 2, 2021