"It is only when we allow our Savior to accompany us in this difficult journey that the cross becomes life-giving and not an instrument of suffering and death."
The raging global pandemic is causing a very heavy toll on the well-being of billions worldwide. The pandemic is not only making people sick but is also triggering an epidemic of fear and loneliness of unprecedented proportions. The mental health concerns are such that many countries are now desperately grappling with this public health crisis exacerbated by poverty, economic dislocation, unending lockdowns, movement restrictions and social isolation, among others. For instance, suicide incidence due to the pandemic is so dire in Japan that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has thought it wise to add a ministry for loneliness to his cabinet. Or that Thailand, hitherto dubbed as the land of smiles, is also experiencing an epidemic of depression and mental health crisis. There is an epidemic within this pandemic, and no one is spared, whether rich or poor.
It is for this reason that this year’s celebration of the Lenten Season takes on greater significance for all of us. As we celebrate the Paschal Triduum, the holiest season of the liturgical year, we are called to contemplate all the more on the meaning of Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection as it relates with our lives today.
Paschal Triduum refers to the liturgical rites during three days of Lenten week that starts with Holy Thursday and culminates on the evening of Easter vigil in preparation for the resurrection. It is the period to recall the passion, death burial and resurrection of Christ.
Pope Francis once urged the faithful to see the signs of the Risen Lord and open their hearts to a “present that is full of the future.” The Sacred Triduum is the apex of our liturgical year and also the apex of our lives as Christians, he said. During this period, the faithful recall the Lord washing the Apostles’ feet, through which he showed that the “purpose of his life and passion was to serve God and neighbor, a service which we are called to imitate by loving one another as he loved us,” the Holy Father explained.
In the same way, we can view this period of the pandemic as a unique opportunity to serve and love others in whatever vocation God is calling us, either as essential workers or as ordinary citizens who are called upon to follow health protocols.
Now more than ever, the virtue of obedience and service take on greater importance given that many are suffering heightened distress and anguish because of the uncertainties of the times.
In the same vein, the Last Supper teaches us about the importance of humility, selflessness and service as the true meaning of leadership. The act of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples runs counter to how the world understands leadership. The accepted norm for most of us is for a leader to be served rather than to serve. In this sense, Christ was a revolutionary. He has shown the most extreme form of humility and love for man resulting in the ultimate sacrifice of His life on the cross.
On Good Friday—the Pope explained —we meditate on the mystery of Christ’s death and we will adore the Cross. Surely, we cannot regard the death of our Savior on the cross as an act of a loser. The manner of His death may be ignominious from the perspective of the unbelievers, but it is this same death that brought salvation to mankind and reconciled us to the Father. It is by offering himself as a sacrificial lamb that we, unworthy as we are, became co-heirs of heaven. For the true believers, the suffering of Jesus Christ is not only a poignant and heart-wrenching experience of a historic Man. Rather Christ’s suffering is borne out of the abundance of God’s love for His beloved creatures. In this modern and secular age where societies endeavor to avoid any form of suffering and discomfort even at the expense of sacrificing morality and rejecting the laws of God, Christ’s passion is a constant reminder that suffering cannot be an excuse for us to alienate ourselves from others nor separate us from the love of God.
The pain and anguish we experience as a result of the raging pandemic will take on a spiritual dimension and redemptive value if we know how to unite our suffering with the passion and death of Christ. In other words, we carry our own crosses always in the company of Christ and not apart from Him. Through the action of the Spirit of God working in us, we can carry our individual crosses without anger but kindness, without murmurings but patience and humility, and without selfishness but generosity.
This global pandemic will come to an end sooner or later. It is only when we allow our Savior to accompany us in this difficult journey that the cross becomes life-giving and not an instrument of suffering and death. Only with this attitude and disposition will we recognize the Glorified Lord on the day of His resurrection.
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