Wow, what an Octave of Easter! I hope you all are having a smooth and steady recovery from your week long chocolate and sweets sugar-high hang-over. (See CCC 1089 for Temperence) If you consider yourself any bit of a true Catholic, then I hope you did indeed celebrate the Risen Lord all eight days and party like it was ’33 A.D.. But now, like after any good celebration, its back to the normal Monday through Friday; the paper jams, the traffic, and eating left-overs that you aren’t really sure why they made it through all forty days of Lent in your fridge days. After entering back into the mundane, if you're anything like me, you got to Monday possibly wondering:
“Did my Lent really even change anything about my life?”
This year’s Holy week I found myself in a real struggle to see what the reality of the Passion and the Resurrection really had to do with my life. I mean I know the story; Christ undergoes a brutal beating and crucifixion, in order to die and be resurrected so that we could go on and have eternal life. But I was still left wondering: “Why is there still so much suffering in the world? Or, why is there so much suffering even in my world and my life?” For me it seemed that there was a devastatingly uncomfortable disconnect in my Holy Week between my Good Friday and Easter Sunday. A deep part of me just couldn’t tie together the painful Cross and the painless Easter. (Mind you I’m not even mentioning the infestation of stupid colored rabbits.)
It wasn’t until recalling the scourging scene from “The Passion” in the midst of my Easter Vigil that I finally began to see the passion in a different light. I began to see not a murder, but true and total self-gift. For so long the Passion had always just felt like I was watching a brutal murder scene, and yet something moved within me this year that made the movie stand so small for the first time. I wanted more. I no longer saw evil, but REAL love…and I wanted more. Watching the Passion this time around made the cross hanging around my neck more real than even the blood on the screen because this was where my also REAL suffering met the love of Christ.
For the first time his reality met with my reality, because how can we comfort the suffering servant, the man marked by lashings who carries a weight beyond human strength? We can watch and be sorrowful…and yet something in us demands more; love seeks more than to just watch. It is here where we take up our cross, and we ask to suffer alongside the messiah. We become companions to the bloody cross, united to him by heart, body, and blood. Here is where Love and Suffering embrace, never to be separated again.
Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own…By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion. (CCC 1505)
Love makes the suffering of the cross comprehensible. A willing and trusting heart is the key that transforms the execution into a “consummation”. (Jn 19:30) Therefore we can no longer just stand on the sidelines but if we want to truly live the life opened to us we must unite our sufferings with Him. For so long I saw the resurrection as just an excuse from suffering, an excuse from love, when all along it was an invitation to love. The resurrection is not an excuse from love but rather the deepest invitation to love. Therefore it is in love that the mystery of suffering is manifest:
Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil. (CCC 309)
Christ's gift on the cross is the defining moment and invitation of what we are called to do with our humanity. And that does not necessarily have the intention for us to suffer, but to offer our hearts and self fully to a God who offers Himself fully to us, no matter the sufferings or consequences. The scariest thing from that paragraph is that we are the ones with the freedom to either accept that invitation or turn it away. If the world is in bad shape it is because even in the face of the cross, man has still chosen his own self-preservation over the self-gift of Christ. We choose to stand and watch, rather than to pick up our cross and follow him.
The truth is God will create us without our consent, but he will not save us without our consent. (CCC 1993) Purgatory is filled with lukewarm lovers, with those who never really allowed themselves to fall madly in love with truth goodness and beauty, but chose to be aroused by the things of this world. Christ sets the standard of love on the cross, so now the choice comes to us: Will we take up his grace and take up our cross and follow? The resurrection begins with the cross; the cross intends the resurrection.
(Painting: "domine quo vadis" by Annibale Carracci)
Alan Badia is a youth minister in Toledo, Ohio who self-identifies as a Texan. He love Jesus and the TV show Arrow. He also has really vivid dreams. You can follow him at @alanjonbosco