Reflection – 30th March
As we enter these last two weeks of Lent, the season known as ‘Passiontide’, we have an opportunity to follow more closely in the way of Christ’s suffering, which is the meaning of ‘Passion’, perhaps more closely this year than at any other time in the recent past. Suffering has, in a very real way, come upon the world, in the form of a nasty, invisible disease, which strikes seemingly at random and is particularly cruel to the elderly and vulnerable. Truly, because many of the symptoms can easily be confused with a simple cold, it is hard for people to know if they have, or have had, the virus, or not.
The media often portray our struggle to overcome this virus as a battle between life and death. There is perhaps some truth in this, but it also makes it all too easy to forget that this is a ‘battle’ which, ultimately, we all lose. Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to accept death as the sad but inevitable consequence of humanity’s alienation from God.
Yet, whist it is understandably easy to become sorrowful in the face of mortality, we must not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by it. Christ has, in dying and rising again, conquered death on our behalf and has promised us eternal life, if we but accept him as Lord and God! This promise is true and is attested by many witnesses who saw the Risen Lord. The truth of the promise and the reality of God’s love are experienced in our lives in so many different ways. We must not despair, for the Lord holds out eternal life to us!
Five years ago, I had the great joy and privilege of travelling to Turin, Italy, to stand before the awesome and mysterious Shroud of Christ, thus fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition. I was overwhelmed by being in the presence of that cloth which wrapped Christ’s entombed body and which no attempt to disprove its authenticity has show itself to be credible. Yet, however much one venerates the cloth which bears the marks of a crucified dead man, what I find to be so wonderful is that it is the first ‘witness’ to the Resurrection and, for those ‘in the know’, is far from being a mute witness. God doesn’t leave us to rely on ‘blind faith’, but rather provides us with evidences which cannot but fail to impress us and lead us to, or confirm, our faith in him.
As we walk with Jesus over the next days, let us reflect on the fact that, whilst we will experience the sorrow of his betrayal, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and the horror of the execution by crucifixion, we know that the story does not end on a Roman cross on a hill outside Jerusalem. Rather, because of Christ’s rising on the third day, the story never ends, and it extends to include our stories, too. We are invited into this story of risen life, the Life which conquers death, so that it becomes our story in Christ.
So, in spite of all the darkness in the world, which at times threatens to overwhelm us, let us recall in these days of the Passion that it is through death and in spite of death, that we are given the gift of true, eternal life with God – and, in these dark days, gives us the source of true joy – something, indeed, to a smile on our faces!