No greater love: Holy Week calls us to follow, and preach, Christ crucified
Apr 12, 2019
A mystery such as the Passion and death of Jesus rightly strikes us as being too sublime for words. And yet St. Paul reminds us that “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and also writes, “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
The Gospel we preach is one of life, but this life comes at the price of the Son of God’s death. It is only by way of Calvary that we can make the journey to the empty tomb and the glory of Easter morning.
It is easy to affirm this truth, but not so easy to live it. Or to put it another way, admiration of our crucified Lord comes relatively easily, but our imitation of Him is more difficult. We find it hard to take up our crosses and follow Jesus. And even when we pick our crosses up we can still poison our efforts by spending more energy complaining about them than carrying them.
One of the most poignant scenes in the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ is the moment when Jesus kisses His cross as he picks it up before setting out on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows. To kiss His cross is a sign of Jesus’ love for us, and the love with which He was prepared to suffer and die in order to save us from sin and death.
Do you want to convince people of the truth, and beauty, and goodness of the Gospel? We will not be fully credible as we preach Christ crucified until we can carry our crosses with love, and not merely with resignation.
The late Archbishop Luis M. Martinez of Mexico City wrote in his 2003 book The Sanctifier, “For worldly people, the will of God is often a tragic hardship; for souls beginning their spiritual journey, it is a motive for resignation; for saints, it is heaven.”
What makes the difference between these groups of people, and the way they perceive their mission to do the will of God? “Simply because each soul receives the will of God according to its relations to the Holy Spirit,” Archbishop Martinez tells us. We need the power of the Spirit to do what is, in merely human terms, impossible.
So that we might carry our crosses more lovingly, and thereby preach the Gospel of our crucified and risen Lord more credibly, we would do well on this Good Friday to meditate upon the unfathomable love Jesus shows us on the Cross. In order to help us do that, I’m including below the lyrics to my favorite hymn about Christ’s Passion and death. This hymn gives us a poetic testimony to what in his Divine Comedy the poet Dante called “the love that moves the sun and other stars,” the love which brought God to us and led him to die for our salvation.
And as our meditation progresses, it would be very good for us to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that we might have the divine power needed to carry our crosses with great love, in a world that would have us perpetually intoxicated by comfort and pleasure. And we should ask the same Spirit to give us the faith and courage to proclaim boldly the Good News of our salvation in every situation in which we find ourselves, by our words and the witness of our lives.
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. Because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world.
MY SONG IS LOVE UNKNOWN (Samuel Crossman, 1664)(Melody: Love Unknown by John Ireland, 1879-1962)
My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?
He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.
Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.
Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.
They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
Fr. Charles Fox is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit currently assigned to the theology faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary. He is also a weekend associate pastor at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township and chaplain and a board member of St. Paul Evangelization Institute, headquartered in Warren.