Over the next three days we will recall the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. These days are the holiest ones in the year for us as Christians; days in which we remember the reality that humans are capable of tender and loving service as well as acts of betrayal, fickleness and fidelity in relationships, extraordinary brutality as well as small acts of kindness, fearful domination and courageous love. Amidst all of these competing factors, we have the example of Jesus who remains true to the mission entrusted to Him by the Father.
As Christians we remember the sacrifice of Jesus acknowledging that he is the model of a fulfilled human life – he is the person who embodies complete integrity – his life, his actions of healing and of standing with those on the margins, of calling out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the time and then being arrested, mocked, scourged, made to carry his cross to Calvary where he was put to death as a criminal, hanging on a cross. Jesus was put to death in a violent and gruesome manner.
The death of Jesus expresses the depth of God’s love for us. However, if his death was the end of the story, there would not be much to celebrate. St Paul goes further and says, “if the Messiah has not been raised, then our message means nothing and your faith means nothing” (1 Cor 15:14). However, we know something happened on Sunday morning following Jesus’ death. We continue to proclaim, nearly 2000 years later, that Jesus is risen from the dead. The Gospels tell us that the disciples – both women and men – discovered that his body was no longer in the tomb on the Sunday morning and then Jesus started appearing to his disciples. Sometimes they were able to recognise him immediately, and at other times, it was only following a conversation with him, such as Mary Magdalene’s experience of him in the garden or the two frightened and grieving disciples reflecting upon their experience of journeying with him to Emmaus. The early Church’s experience of the risen Jesus changed everything – the disciples went from being frightened to being empowered, being willing to proclaim the reality of God’s victory over sin and death, even to the point of dying for this belief.
Over these sacred days I invite each of us to reflect upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – these events are at the heart of the Christian story. Over these coming days. I pray and hope that each of us will be able to create room to recall with reverence the unconditional love of our God, grounded in the hope that flows from the resurrection of Jesus. Jesuit schools across the world talk about being men and women for others – Jesus’ life is the embodiment of this – his life is one of loving service and being others-focused, Jesus is the ultimate example of being a person of integrity who courageously proclaimed the message of faith that promotes reconciliation and justice, including being prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life for his friends.
As we ponder, pray and reflect upon the sacrificial love of our God present in the person of Jesus Christ, we are drawn to reflect upon what might be our response. Saint Ignatius wrestled with this very question, especially in the months that followed the shattering of his leg by the cannon ball in the Battle of Pamplona. Ignatius prayed over three questions and encouraged others to do so as well:
- What have I done for Christ?
- What am I doing for Christ?
- What will I do for Christ?
Now it is our turn to engage with these questions and articulate what our response will be to our God who is love.
May this time of holy-days be a time of rest, renewal and relaxation.
Wishing you and your families every blessing this Easter.