This Sunday’s Mass readings reminded us that we are nearing the end of Lent and the Way of the Cross will soon be upon us. We were told that it was Christ’s suffering and death that made Him the “source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb 5:7-9) and that we too, like a grain of wheat, must die in order to bear much fruit (Jn 12:20-33).
Several months ago a person commented on this blog in defense of assisted suicide by arguing that it’s not how we die that should matter, but how we live our lives. It certainly sounds like a profound and appealing sentiment, except that dying is a part of life! It is an experience that every person must go through. It’s not always an easy or pleasant experience as it’s typically in conjunction with at least a small amount of physical suffering as well as some fear or anxiety. That is why on the Cross Christ teaches us how to die and shows us the great reward that comes from patient endurance.
Bruised, bloody and beaten, naked and humiliated, abandoned by his friends and loyal followers, Jesus Christ’s Passion was the greatest physical and emotional pain ever suffered. It was a great spiritual pain as well since Christ, having literally taken the full weight of human sin upon Himself, felt the bitter agony of feeling completely separated from God. And yet despite this most extreme pain, he endured. He never once cried out or begged for assistance to be “put out of His misery.” Rather, He repeatedly put His life in the hands of Almighty God, trusting in His Will and knowing that only He has the authority to take life away.
This is what he asks of each one of us. We all must pick up our own crosses and follow Him. In fact, Christ goes so far as to tell us that if we do not do this, we are not worthy of the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 10:38). This is no easy task. It requires much faith and hope in God’s promise of eternal life. But above all, it requires obedience and humility – dying to ourselves and our own desires and submitting our lives to the Will of our heavenly Father who loves us and His Son who will, through His eternal sacrifice, be right there with us in all our trials.
What’s more, this patient endurance does not go unrewarded. Just as Christ was “made perfect” by what he suffered and was able to Rise again and be seated at God’s right hand, so shall we be sanctified through our own sufferings united to the Cross of Christ, and share in His eternal glory in heaven.
In this last week and a half (!!) of Lent, let us make time to contemplate the great paradox of the Cross. To reflect on the Passion of our Lord especially the very last moments of His agony on the Cross.
Wonderful reflection tools:
The Passion of the Christ – naturally
The Doloros Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Anne Catherine Emmerich
The Sacred Passion – Luis De La Palma (I am reading this)
Death on a Friday Afternoon – Fr. Richard Neuhaus
The Seven Last Words – Bishop Fulton Sheen