Passiontide – Pastor’s Reflection (April 2, 2017)
Tomorrow, Monday, April 3 opens a new phase in the Lenten cycle which we call “Passiontide.” The liturgical focus now shifts from moral conversion to a contemplation of the suffering and death of Jesus. At Mass every day this week you will hear a distinctive Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer. Each Mass
contains such a preface, and it indicates the particular reason for which we give thanks at a given Eucharist. It is worth noting we take the stance of gratitude at every Mass, even when we commemorate something as terrible as the Suffering (Passion) and Death of the Lord. The preface reads as follows:
It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father,
almighty and eternal God.
For through the saving Passion of your Son
the whole world has received a heart
to confess the infinite power of your majesty,
since by the wondrous power of the Cross
your judgment on the world is now revealed
and the authority of Christ crucified.
And so, Lord, with all the Angels and Saints,
we, too, give you thanks,
as in exultation we acclaim:
Put simply, I am thankful at this time because the Death of Jesus has caused me to perceive the power of God in a particular way. In Passiontide, I recognize His power over power. He has subjugated what has subjugated me.
The Cross channels the human power to dominate. Jesus walks the Via Dolorosa carrying the weight of Imperial Rome, official religion, and the crowd. Each claims control over life, and the three have colluded to “get” Jesus. Jesus Crucified is bound in the place of all those who pay the price for life having the order that someone else thinks it should have. But since we look at the Cross through the lens of the Resurrection we recognize that God has judged all of this power to be futile and responds to it with His own unfailing power to give life. God judges our efforts to dominate, to overawe, and to manipulate to be vain, and yet He loves us and calls to a life beyond such dead stratagems.
By contrast we are amazed by the authority of Jesus who has lost every shred of His own human
power, save the power to love which serves for the healing of the rest. We smirk at the idea of love having power but look how it has reoriented our lives. The helplessness of Jesus has transformed our behavior, our thinking, and our longing in a way that no totalitarian or revolutionary could ever dream of. You read these lines not because you are afraid of God, but because you love Him and desire Him.
By the life of the sacraments this perspective of God is now ours. We are equipped by Him to see through, lovingly, the vanities of our own time and to confess that the victory of Jesus is more real than they.
Next Sunday it will be time to acknowledge the power in us of the powerlessness of Christ. On Palm Sunday we walk in procession and confess to the world that Christ’s transformation of us has begun, but is incomplete. We celebrate another Holy Week because we need to, and our witness is not our triumph but His.
Consider gathering at St. Catherine’s and walking to St. Vincent’s next Sunday, April 9, to testify to the one who has the power to keep you in motion toward the highest of goals.