To many people, this whole week has something of the feeling of a long wake. As we participate actively in the death and resurrection of Jesus, as we walk with him into Jerusalem, and along the Way of the Cross, it feels, as it should, like the loss of a close family friend.
The Church celebrates the Mass in a variety of settings, but perhaps none as gripping as a Mass of Christian Burial.
Something about this situation brings out the power of the Mass in a poignant way. Our experience of personal death intertwines with the theme of Jesus’ sacrifice in such a way that the Paschal Mystery becomes something we can almost feel.
What an unusual and almost contrary message we Catholics have to offer the world: the message of the Paschal Mystery, which insists that true life can come only through our acceptance of death. The wider world believes exactly the opposite: that true life comes from grabbing it by the collar, by working very hard, by being around attractive and important people.
What has to die of course, is sin, in all its forms, within us and within the world. Jesus dies to raise up before our eyes the reality of death, the very result of sin, as he becomes the object of hatred, jealousy, scorn, and violence. In Jesus, death hangs before our eyes in a way that cannot be hidden.
But as Jesus makes that death an act of ultimate love, a sign of peace and mercy and a means of forgiveness, death itself dies. As Jesus is raised by the power of God, triumphant over death, he makes possible for us the conquest of sin in our lives, and fullness of life beyond death.
The Way of the Cross. It refers to the Catholic devotion of the Stations of the Cross. But it also refers to a way of life, true life.
How has Jesus changed your view of death?
Set aside time to pray the Stations of the Cross this week. Consider doing it on Good Friday in particular.
My dying Jesus, I devoutly kiss the cross on which You would die for love of me. I deserve, because of my sins, to die a terrible death; but Your death is my hope. By the merits of Your death, give me the grace to die embracing Your feet and burning with love of You. I yield my soul into Your hands. I love You with my whole heart. I am sorry that I have offended You. Never let me offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.
(St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Stations of the Cross, Twelfth Station)