Fr. Raymond Lafontaine, E.V. April 5, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
We have just concluded an abridged version of the Passion of Matthew – yet how packed it is! So many images of the trial, sufferings and death of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus dies feeling alone and abandoned – abandoned even by his own Father. “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani .. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
Rather than a homily with many ideas today, let us enter into a meditation, standing at the foot of the cross: with Mary, with the Beloved Disciple, with Magdalene and the holy women, with those who stayed with him until the end.
Let us also remember in a special way and carry in our hearts all those who at this time feel alone, lost, abandoned, whether at home, or a seniors residence, in-hospital let us be in solidarity with them, as we pray at foot of the Cross.
MeditationMoments after Jesus has died, I stand on the hill of Calvary. I am alone. My eyes are fixed on Jesus, On his lifeless body on the Cross. I listen to the thoughts and the feelings that arise within me as I look. I see Jesus stripped of everything. Stripped of his dignity. Stripped of his reputation. Stripped of success. Stripped of credibility. He could not come down from the Cross, he could not save himself - the people see him as a fraud. Stripped of support. Even the few friends who stayed by him are powerless to help him. Stripped even of God - the God he called his Father, the one supposed to save him in his hour of need. Finally, I see Jesus stripped of life itself - The life he cherished as a gift, The life he held dearly onto until the very end. As I gaze at Jesus, I begin to understand that I am looking at the sign of supreme and total liberation. It is in being nailed to the Cross that Jesus is fully alive and free. It is not a defeat, but a victory Yet a victory I have trouble understanding. As I gaze at Jesus, I remember that it was the freedom of foolish love that led him to the Cross. In gazing at his freedom, I think with sadness about my own slavery, my own lack of liberty. Am I a slave to public opinion, more concerned with the attitude of society towards me than with integrity and honour. Am I a slave to my compulsion for human success. I run away from challenges and risks - especially the risk of forgiveness and love - because I am afraid to make mistakes, because I am afraid of being hurt. Am I enslaved by my false beliefs about God. I think of the times I use him to make my life secure and undisturbed and painless. Or when I see him as a God to be feared, An angry God demanding sacrifice and obedience. Rather than a God who loves me, and gives himself for me. Finally, I think of how desperately I cling to life, paralyzed by fears of every kind, fear of losing friends or reputation, fear of economic insecurity, fear of illness, of this virus which is spreading across the world fear of failure; fear of life and even God. And so I gaze in admiration at Jesus crucified, who won his final liberation in his passion, when he let go of all that held him back, and abandoned himself into the arms of God:
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." I hear echoing within me the words of St. Paul today: "Jesus did not cling to his divinity, but humbled himself, accepting death, even death on the Cross. Therefore, at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, To the glory of God the Father. Amen." (Phil. 2:6-11) Standing here on Calvary, before Jesus I kneel and bow down to the ground. I ask for myself, for my loved ones, the freedom and the victory that radiate from Jesus on the Cross. I remember that Jesus died and rose again So that I might enjoy true freedom, share in his victory over death. Now, I stand and follow Jesus, carrying my own cross with him, Uniting my cross to his Cross. Jesus walks this journey with us: We have walked with him throughout Lent On the journey from thirst to life-giving water, from blindness to new vision, from death to life. And in this time of a global pandemic When we are possessed by fear When we feel imprisoned and lost, within our walls Jesus invites us to take up the cross with him
Pope Francis shared with us last week a beautiful message, where he invites us to embrace the Cross with Jesus:
Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity.
By his cross we have been saved, in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues, to help us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.*
(Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi message, 27 March 2020)
And so, dear friends, as we enter into this Holy Week, as we walk this sacred journey with the Lord, let us ask Jesus on the Cross to free us from fear and give us hope. May He be our strength and our guide. May he lead us on this journey from death to life. Amen.
I would like for us all, in these days of grace, to have the courage to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. Only in this way will the Church will go forward. May the Holy Spirit bestow upon us the grace of journeying with Christ, of building with Christ, and of confessing Jesus Christ crucified.”