Monday, March 9, 2015

Preparing for the Passion

For many Christians around the world, the opportunity to identify with the crucified Christ will arrive today--at the hands of barbaric jihadists.  Some of these modern-day martyrs will be torn away from their family and friends; many will be mocked, stripped, and/or tortured.  All will take up their cross, along with their crown.

For the rest of the mystical body of Christ around the world, ongoing questions will persist regarding how best to stand in solidarity with these brothers and sisters.  Though we may not be called to such a heroic and bloody witness, wherever followers of Jesus live and work,  this pointed spiritual question remains:  Am I willing to climb Calvary in solidarity with all those who are forced to do so?  Am I ready to journey once again to Jerusalem with our Lord?

There are many ways to envision such spiritual solidarity, but here are a few possibilities to consider: 
  • Perhaps we will fall at the feet of Jesus, like Mary at Bethany--pouring out some of our precious earthly resources, anointing the Anointed One, and drying his feet with our hair (Jn 12:1-8); this is a prayer offered in gratitude for a life restored, as well as in anticipation of a life offered once for all.
  • Perhaps we will let Jesus fall at our feet, like the Disciples at the Last Supper--allowing the divine Mercy to wash us clean, even though we don't deserve it and we haven't earned it (Jn 13:1-20); the purifying work of the Divine Footwasher hinges on the humility of those who accept his gift, who swallow their pride, and who allow themselves to be made clean.
  • Perhaps we will succeed in keeping watch with Jesus for an hour, as Peter, James and John attempted in the garden of Gethsemani--letting the Lord's prayer become our prayer, "Not my will but yours be done" (Lk 22:42); the "art of accompaniment" requires that we let ourselves be drawn more fully into Jesus' relationship with his Father and our Father.
  • Perhaps we will seek not to be consoled but to console, like the Women of Jerusalem-- fearlessly approaching Jesus as he carries his cross, and bracing ourselves for our Lord's prophesy, "if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?" (Lk 23:28-31); Christ knows that his passion will continue on until the end of time, but our consoling presence can contribute to many real-time moments of resurrection.
  • Perhaps we will allow ourselves to be pressed into service on behalf of someone in need, as another Simon of Cyrene--hesitatingly at first, but wholeheartedly after a while, thereby helping Jesus and all those crushed by their crosses (Mt 27:32); Christ himself knows our fears, but he always invites us beyond ourselves and promises to help carry us to our common goal.
  • Perhaps we will cling to our Mother Mary, like John the beloved disciple--not letting ourselves become isolated and thereby scattered and shattered by the Wolf (Jn 19:26-27); whenever we stand at the foot of the Cross, we hear the most marvelous things imaginable (e.g., "Today you will be with me in paradise"). 
Finally, as we walk with our fellow Christians and with our Lord himself, let's always remember the point of this ultimate witness: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (Jn 3:14).

In the Name of Christ Crucified,

P.S. Pope Francis has called for "24 Hours for the Lord", a world-wide devotion from Friday 3/13 through Saturday 3/14; it is a plea for prayer, Eucharistic adoration, and Confession.