The journey of Jesus from Palm Sunday through death to resurrection is the pattern of all human life. In the celebration of Easter, we are invited to let THE something greater, something more real, provide direction and focus for our lives. This ‘something’ gives meaning to all human existence.
The “something” is in fact someONE: Jesus. He is the only one who can save us.
Our lives are busy. There are incessant demands on our time and excessive pressures on our energy and emotions. We rarely have the opportunity to relfect at any depth.
I fall into the trap of thinking that I will ‘feel’ saved when I complete this task or mend that relationship. Life will be worth living when I overcome this habit, get a better job or win Lotto.
If I really get serious about faith, I think that when I overcome sin in my life I will find happiness.
Such thinking is fantasy, since human happiness is never a human creation. It is God who gifts us with all we seek, and we are most open to receive this gift when we are tired and hungry, vulnerable and weak.
When the futility of human effort threatens to overwhelm us, in that moment we are most ready to receive the gifts that give meaning to human life.
This is why the Catholic Church places significant emphasis on the suffering of Jesus.
Humans seem to be programmed to avoid suffering and pain. We do all we can to avoid it. We mistakenly feel that suffering is an obstacle to the satisfaction we seek. We see pain as a problem.
The reality is that, for all of us much of the time, there is worry and anxiety in life. The question is, what do we do with this? Our faith tells us to not be afraid. We are even encouraged to place a bleeding and dying God-Man on a cross in our homes, in the living room or beside the bed where we rest.
Each glance at this figure is a reminder that my human struggle is not a problem for God, Death is not the end. Death is the path to the life for which we were created.
The crucifix is the ultimate symbol of hope for those who are truly living, and those who seek rest.
And so in Holy Week our parishes walked this journey.
On Holy Thursday evening we celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. There we sat with Jesus and his friends. But we knew that within hours these same friends will have slept through his agony. They betray him. They deny him. They run away as he carries his cross and is crucified.
Why spend these days focused on such suffering when surely the glory of the resurrection is what we need?
Simply because we do everything we can to avoid facing such struggle in our own life – and the resurrection of Jesus can only be experienced today by those who have at least tasted their personal need for this gift.
We seem to know this instinctively. Something stirs us to face pain, and so we flock to the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. In doing this we are responding to the call of the Spirit of God in our hearts: confront death, do not deny the reality and the effects of suffering. In this place, facing pain, we are in good company with others who come gather, then move forward to venerate the wood of the cross.
The regular rhythm of passing time brings us to the Vigil of the Resurrection. We did nothing to reach this day except to keep breathing. Now our retreat has brought us to the light that breaks in on human darkness and the water that quenches human thirst. I am alive, not because I am strong or virtuous. I am alive simply because Jesus is alive, and I say “yes!” I realize again that I have done nothing to cause my existence, and yet, here I am!
All is gift.
When I know this fact I can truly live even and especially in the midst of suffering and pain.
The Church also knows our difficulty in appreciating the significance of the resurrection. Therefore we celebrate Easter Sunday for eight days in a row: the Octave of Easter. Even Tuesday is Sunday this week. Then, to help the reality sink in, the Easter Season lasts a full fifty days until Pentecost.
As we continue our Easter journey we pray in the words of the Easter Exultet of the Vigil: May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.