Today as we approach the Triduum and Easter, we begin the holiest of weeks in our church and in our Catholic tradition. The Paschal Mystery is central to our beliefs as we celebrate the passion, the death and the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Being the youngest of 12 children and growing up in New York City, it was a very big deal for our Catholic family to spend lots of time in Church. And one of the customs was to journey to as many churches as we could between Holy Thursday and Good Friday. It is a dear memory of those times when my mother took my siblings and me on many bus rides throughout the city visiting various Catholic churches. We would spend time in prayer and appreciate the beauty of each unique church. This tradition instilled in me a deep sense of being in touch with what had happened in Jesus’ life during his last days on earth.
Today this memory brings me back to the importance Jesus’ life and death has in my life today. I once heard a speaker say that by the time Jesus got to the cross, there was nothing left of him to give…he had already given his all for us during his life. And Jesus asks us today to live in that same way—giving what we can to live our lives following in the example of Jesus.
Jesus and what he stood for, what he preached and taught, and how he treated all the people in his life, is the example of total love and mercy—this total love and mercy about which Pope Francis speaks so often. Jesus became a threat to the powers that were in place in the government and in the synagogue. His message was so contrary to what they believed and what they had been taught. “Love your enemies”…that was such a foreign concept to them. “Love the poor and outcast”…that, too, didn’t make sense to them. But Jesus was gaining momentum and people were beginning to listen to him. This made them very nervous and suspicious of Jesus. But they didn’t stop Jesus from continuing to share with them his Father’s love for them—though eventually he was crucified for speaking out these beliefs and teachings that remain central to human dignity and compassion today.
I often wonder what side I would have been on if I had lived during Jesus’ time. This Holy Week, take some time to consider this question yourself…what would you have done had you lived 2000 years ago and been faced with this decision? We do know that the way Jesus lived his life affected the whole world and still does.
But the important truth we face today is that we are faced with these questions every day—what will we do today when we are faced with decisions that challenge our faith lives and push us to greater lengths in loving all people? What will we do with that and other ethical questions that arise in our work lives, at home, and in our communities?
If we can but take his simple example of always speaking the truth and doing the most loving actions possible, then we can believe that his Spirit will always be with us and enable us to live a life like Jesus lived. We have that promise through Jesus’ own resurrection. And through our own baptism, we know that we are called to live a life that will make a difference and maybe change the world.