To guide us through the remaining weeks of Lent, friar Joseph Quinn, OFM, provides ideas about coping with life’s struggles and about deepening our trust in the word and the sacrifices of Jesus. He presented these ideas during a series of recent programs at St. Anthony Shrine, Boston.
During Lent, we are called to reflect in a special way in which a person’s love that was so total and unconditional eventually led to Him to His death. Through this sacred season, we are also asked to consider our personal response to follow Jesus. How sincere are we in accepting this reflection? Do we have a tendency to pick what is pleasant and easy and ignore what demands sacrifice of us?
At some time or another, all of us experience doubt, insecurity, alienation, struggle, loneliness and failure. We may even wonder if our lives really have any meaning.
Because he was human, Jesus had experiences similar to ours. He suffered internal violence during his moments of crisis and uncertainty; he suffered external violence inflicted by those who could not control their fear or hatred. God sent him to a people lost in the mix of despair and indifference. His crisis of agony was understood only by the Father from the depth of pain and Jesus’ heart-rendering prayer.
There is a belief among many Christians that the violence experienced by Jesus was not felt as deeply as we would feel them. Yet, his thoughts embraced and comforted those around him. His final words became a permanent summons to compassion as well as an exclamation of the triumph of good.
‘An Invitation to Hope’
What a strange beginning to life Jesus had. He had the simplest of births in the shabbiest of places a birth that hints at the very heart of the Christian message. Jesus becomes for us a channel to that same experience of intimacy with the Father and Mother of all life. Jesus offers us an invitation to hope in our daily lives as well as in the ultimate meaningfulness of our everyday struggles in this world.
When it comes to Jesus, it is not uncommon for many to opt for the pleasures in this life that we so often feel that we deserve. Yet, he asks us to surrender what this world values as security in this life and to deepen our faith in his challenge for us to “Go sell what you have, give to the poor” and “Take up your cross daily.” Jesus then goes so far as to say “Love one another as I have loved you.”
As Jesus stood before his family in the synagogue in Nazareth, he challenged us to give to the poor out of our abundance, so equality, justice and poverty will one day be eradicated. He tells us to heal the oppressed, broken in body and spirit so that through healing, they too may have a life as his Father intended us to have. Jesus makes it perfectly clear that his mission in life was to preach the Good News, not as a dream for the future but as a new era that begins at this time.
To be human, to bear the challenge of this fragile life while He embraces the sin of the world even as His love nails Him to the tree, it is precisely love that nails Him to the tree. The cross on which Jesus was nailed— is it relevant to us today? We are surrounded by many crosses in this life — including starvation, war, prejudice, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, chemical warfare among them — as we live in this world.
The only two who joined Jesus at the cross were his mother Mary and his trusted friend, John. Together, they put aside their fears and doubts because of their abiding love for him and a deep belief in the message He was giving His life for: His challenge to us to deepen our trust in His word and in His sacrifice.
We cannot live in this world and not experience some form of poverty. Christ came not to bless poverty but to change and transform it. He hung upon the cross by the lies, jealousies, greed, hatred and revenge that bore through humanity, while He was still willing to forgive the men who joined him on Mt. Calvary.
Through this transformative offering, it is clear to see that we have just buried life itself. We are left with memories and no grave, no tomb, nothing can take away our memories of Him. Memories are both blessings and wounds. We pay a great price for our memories which are born from our human suffering.
We are challenged to seek Him through centuries of bread and wine and one another. Can we join Him on this Lenten journey to free Him by our words and deeds, never forgetting the price He paid for loving us? Even in the darkest of nights, the star will shine as we follow the road to Bethlehem and believe that the child will once again live. We shall never lose Christ.
If we do not follow Him, He will follow us … not too closely lest he take away our freedom, but near enough to wash our feet when we are ready. He will always meet us at the table of sacrifice to give us bread and wine in our need. Jesus lives again in every child, every star, in every father seeking a lost child and in every mother at the cross. His love remains eternal!
— Fr. Joseph is stationed at St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, where he runs several ministries: Come Home, Grief and LGBT Outreach. Friars interested in submitting reflections about holy days, holidays and other timely topics are asked to contact the HNP Communications Office by phone (646-473-0265 ext. 321) or email.