In a few days, Holy Week will begin. This coming Sunday, as we celebrate Our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, we will come face-to-face with His Passion in the Gospel reading. We will once more walk the path to Golgotha alongside Our Lord and remember what sin and death cost Him.
A good many of us have already been walking the Way of the Cross throughout these weeks of Lent. Whether it be through illness, poverty, loneliness, the death of a loved one, or any other affliction, this Lent as been a reminder that the Cross must come before the Resurrection. Next week we will finally reach the culmination of all we have been waiting for during these 40 days of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
To prepare our hearts and minds for the joy of the Easter season, we must fully enter into Our Lord’s Paschal Mystery with all of its horrors, heart-break, and pain. It is the Crucified Lord who condescends Himself in order to enter into our own suffering and sin. It is He who was beaten and pierced for us Who seeks to bind the wounds we all carry from our sins and from the sufferings of this life. Love necessarily breaks us open and conforms us to the One who emptied Himself out on the Cross in gratuitous love. It is that love that heals the pains of this life and makes us whole.
The Cross of Our Lord compels us to confront the dark places within us and the agonies of the human condition. Catholics do not look away from the Cross. Crucifixes are front-and-center in our churches. We wear them around our necks and hang them in our homes. They are a reminder that the Resurrection cannot come before the Crucifixion. This is just as true in our own lives as it was for our Redeemer. If we want to understand the joy of Easter then we cannot look away from the Cross. Instead, we must embrace it and kiss it tenderly knowing that it is the instrument of our salvation and that the Crosses in our own lives lead to our sanctification. We too must be poured out in love in order to become true disciples of Christ.
“Discipleship means accepting the entire path, going forward into those things that are above, the hidden things that are the real ones: truth, love, our being children of God. Discipleship of this kind only happens, however, in the modality of the Cross, in the true losing of self that alone can open the treasury of God and of the earth, that alone releases, as it were, the living wellsprings of the depths and causes the power of real life to stream into this world. Discipleship is a stepping forward into what is hidden in order to find, through this genuine loss of self, what it is to be a human being. It also means discovering that store of joy of which the world stands in such urgent need. Not only do we have a right, we also have a duty to rejoice, because the Lord has given us joy and the world is waiting for it.”
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which is Above, pg 55.
It is impossible for us to be disciples of Christ without the Cross. We often seek comfort in all the wrong places because we do not want to confront the Crosses in our own lives. We seek that which is lower, rather than that which is higher. We think avoiding the pain that is an inevitable part of this life will bring us peace and happiness, but it never does.
It is through embracing the Cross that the joy of Easter enters into our own hearts every single day. We are then able to radiate this joy into our Fallen world.
Renewing our Lenten penances
Throughout this Lenten season, we have been learning how to deny ourselves so that we can focus on spiritual goods. Most, if not all of us, have failed in some way to fulfill our Lenten penances. Like Christ on His way to Golgotha, we fall repeatedly. Lent often shows us where we are weakest. The point is to get back up and to carry the Crosses of this life knowing Christ is with us always. The sacrifices of Lent help to prepare us for the Crosses Our Lord asks us to carry throughout our lives. In these final days of Lent, let’s renew our Lenten sacrifices and unite them to the Cross of Our Lord.
The joy of Easter is nearly upon us, but before we can enter into the celebration of our redemption, we must walk the Way of the Cross. Holy Week is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. We enter into the great mysteries of our Faith.
Now is the time to look upon the face of Our Crucified Savior in love and to embrace the Cross in all of its agony. If we give ourselves over to Christ on the Cross then He will give us the strength to carry the Crosses in our own lives with joy. It is not Easter, yet. Our Lord’s hour has come.