Introduction (as in the liturgy)
Life is a series of deaths. The womb is our first tomb. We come crying into life. Dying to childhood follows in adolescence, a similar painful time. Later again, we give up multiple partner choice to grow rich in the love of one spouse and our children. And growing old we die to vitality to grow in wisdom and patience. As Shakespeare says in King Lear: “thou shouldest not be old before thou hadst been wise”. Always, there’s dying of some sort to reach deeper life. We’re all put to the test. As Keats says, life is “a vale of soul-making”. Through suffering borne in faith we grow too, until our souls flower into eternity.
That’s what the passion is about. Christ’s passed the supreme test of faith on the cross; there he became the Savior. There He restored light to a world dark and lost since the Fall. His faithfulness to God unto death cancelled out the original sin of disobedience. By similar steadfast faith and love we can help him bring our world back to life too. Indeed only such heroic works can we jolt our dog-eat-dog world into humanity: faithfulness in marriage; loving and nurturing our family through ups and downs; faith, kindness, honesty and integrity in the work place; facing trials and carrying our crosses with courage; witnessing courageously for Christ before the world; showing Christian heroism as dedicated religious, celibate priests, lay ministers, Vincent De Paul volunteers and so on. These are the ways to walk through the world with Christ. He gave himself fully on the cross for God and others in total selfless love. We Christians should do the same, dying to our baser instincts to redeem the times.
Christ says; unless a grain of wheat dies it cannot yield a rich harvest. Remaining true to God and what’s right always entails some death to self. Part of that dying will be forced on us by the world. For the envious world of which Satan is lord will hate and persecute us because of our faith and devotion. We’ll challenge it to deeper life as Christ challenged the corrupt world of his day. But in imitating him we’ll gain our souls and those of untold others. In that sense every Christian is called to live the passion of Christ in his or her own life. Saints such as Patrick, our national patron, are our examples in this. He left everything to toil and suffer in a foreign country for souls. Irish people since have followed him through terrible persecution to similar spiritual greatness. Its the same with us, if we face our crosses with unfailing faith and love we will rise with Christ and the saints to untold heights. There are no crown-bearers in heaven who were not first cross-bearers on earth. True freedom and happiness comes from struggling up the hill with Christ, doing good without counting the cost. For the hard godless self-centered world of which Satan is lord lures us by passing pleasures and vain worldly pursuits to abandon our soul’s good. But in the long run all that passes and leaves us empty, but Christ on the cross is lord of goodness, happiness, freedom and salvation forever and ever, amen.