Frequent meditation on Our Lord’s passion is essential for our spiritual lives. It’s almost like a pitch pipe for a schola. Every now and then, the pipe is played to keep the schola from going flat. The same is true with us. We may be living and practicing the faith, but eventually we may slowly start to slip into acedia, or lukewarmness. We begin to go flat, so we need a little tute to get us back on the right note.
Then we hear the Gospel like we hear it today:
“They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (John 19:37) and in the book of Revelation we hear “every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (1:7).
Isn’t this amazing? It is almost like having a bird’s eye view of the stage of a play as well as the set behind. The full glory of the wheels, the pulleys, the cables, only make sense when the beautiful stage set can be seen. In a certain sense, we have that here. The gory crucifixion, which our Lord suffered out of love for us, is revealed as a truly glorious event. In Revelation 5, the “Lion of Judah” is…”a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain”. Wait a minute…a slain lamb is truly the victorious one?
Yes, Our Lord is truly victorious from the cross. He brings about the ultimate justice. As Pope Saint John Paul wrote in his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia “Death has justice done to it at the price of the death of the one who was without sin and who alone was able-by means of his own death-to inflict death upon death. In this way the cross of Christ…is also a radical revelation of mercy, or rather of the love that goes against what constitutes the very root of evil in the history of man: against sin and death.” (Dom, 8). Our Lord loves us so much that he literally allows His heart to be broken open for us. His sacrificial and self giving Love conquers the hatred and death that sin brings about.
The worldly spirit has never understood and never will understand the cross, because Our Lord conquers death and sin in a manner which is so contrary to how we so often view victory. He conquers it with his love nailed to the cross. He is the lamb standing as though slain. Only he is able to open the scroll in the book of Revelation. The devil likes to trick us into thinking “what’s the point? I can rush through this prayer, I can relax this little penance, I can wait to follow my vocation until later…where is the fruit in all this prayer?” Yet he is simply trying to blind us to the reality that God has revealed to us in the victory of the cross. Often times those interruptions in our day, that annoying and frustrating visitor is sent by God to interrupt our own desires and an opportunity to encounter His mercy.
He invites us to share in His victory. When the soldiers go to him, they do not break his legs but pierce his heart. Saint Thomas Aquinas points out that this is rather a significant event:
“To make sure that Jesus was dead one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear. It deserves notice that he does not say “wounded” but “pierced,” that is “opened,” because in his side the door of eternal life is opened to us: “After this I looked, and lo, in heaven, an open door!” (Rev 4:1). This is the door in the side of the ark through which those animals entered who were not to perish in the flood (Gen 7).”
Our Lord, out of his great love, pours out his very blood and the water from his side for us. This is our gateway into eternal life and our refuge from the flood of temptations and pain here now. It seems more than ever that we need a safe harbor, and that safe harbor is the pierced heart of Christ. That is, the gift of baptism and the Eucharist which flow forth from the cross.
In our baptism, the life giving water of the Blessed Trinity is poured into our souls and we are sent on a mission to share in the redemptive power of the cross. Our Lord is thirsting for each and every person to come to him, and He calls us to help bring others to Him. We do this powerfully in prayer and sacrifices, both the mortifications we choose, and the little penances each day we must endure. Yet in order to do this, we must spend time with our Lord here in the Eucharist-the blood from his side. We are truly looking at him whom we have pierced by our sins.
When our hearts seem to be running dry, remember the four ends of prayer: adoration, petition, reparation, and thanksgiving. In living these four ends of prayer, we will be truly helping the Lamb to be victorious over the whole earth.
Sisters, fathers, and dear friends, please do not ever forget that our Lord is victorious on the cross. He is the lamb who is standing as though slain. It is in his side that we must take refuge and help others through our prayer and sufferings, to be brought into the safety of the sacraments, which are the lifeblood of our immortal souls. We have many many souls who rely on us for our prayers. I am sure each person here could make a long list of people who need prayers and witness to our Lord’s mercy on the Cross. Remember that we are only seeing the one side of the reality. When you seem overwhelmed by suffering, remember that the “failure” on the cross is only understood in the victorious reality of heaven. We see the gears and the pulleys behind the stage, but the beautiful part is the reality that God has planned. Sometimes we do experience a sneak peek as when the big group of poor sisters gathered together in prayer and conquered against the government and the Supreme Court. Sometimes we only see the ugliness, as we experienced this spring in our diocese. In both cases, the Lamb is truly the victor.
Recently this spring I had the great grace and blessing to go to the Holy Land. One unique thing there is at each pilgrimage site, there is a proper Mass. So we celebrated Christmas, Easter, the conversion of the first Gentiles, the miracle of the loaves…all in one week. At the end of the week we had Mass in the Holy Sepulchre at 5:30AM. There the Mass was of Easter. Christ triumphs over the grave.
If you are ever struggling, pull out your book of Revelation, and look at 5:12-14, and then try to listen to the sung rendition of this found in Handel’s oratorio, The Messiah:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!” When we experience the cross, let us join in this triumphant hymn of praise which the angels and all creation proclaim in heaven. Do not be afraid of asking your guardian angel for help when times are difficult!
This way of the cross is a bloody, sweaty, tiring road. Yet the narrow road our Lord offers does widen and broaden into eternal life. The broad, wide, and easy road the world offers eventually ends up narrowing and strangling us. Our Lord offers us his mother to stand by our side to help us walk the narrow road and to rejoice in our sufferings. What a consolation a mother is, and what a consolation our Blessed Mother is to us. She accompanies us in our golgothas and calvaries. She stands by our side as we weep or grimace in pain. Let us invite her in to help us in our darkest and most difficult moments. She will bring us closer to Christ than we ever could by ourselves. Mary, comforter of the Afflicted, pray for us