Walking The Road To Calvary

Several weeks ago, I was at a correctional facility offering a Catholic service for the residents. When I had finished the service with the men, the deputy came into the room and asked if I would see a man who was on suicide watch and asked to see a minister.

The deputy escorted the 30-something year old man into the room. He had been stripped of his clothing and placed in a protective padded suit for his safety. He had threatened to take his own life by jumping from the third level of the facility. He shared about his abusive childhood and his painful adult life, speaking with no emotion. He told me that his wife was in the process of divorcing him, his favorite canine companion was dying, and he felt he had little reason to continue his life. He had been told he was worthless, and he believed it.

He told me that he knew Jesus. I held the St. Benedict crucifix up where he could see it, and I invited him to gaze upon it. We talked about how much God loved him and about how many lies he had been told about who he was. We talked about how God arranges events in our lives, and about how my being there that morning was a God-arranged event. We talked about laying down his pain at the foot of the cross, and about how much Jesus loved him and wanted him to be healed.

This Sunday, we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. We begin our celebration by recalling Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the excited shouts of “Hosanna!” by the crowd. The mood of our worship changes quickly from the joyful entry to the dramatic reading of the passion. We follow Jesus to the cross and to the tomb. Holy Week begins with this reminder of what our entire Lenten journey has been about: the cross of Christ and Jesus’ triumph over sin and death.

The young man I saw at the correctional facility was carrying a very heavy cross. Most of us can’t imagine dealing with such painful wounds, while locked away with nothing but time to think about the deep sadness of life. Each of us carries a cross. Some of our crosses are known only to us and to God, but some are visible to others as well. Jesus reminded us that, if we are to be his followers, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. Whatever our cross, we can be assured that Jesus is with us as we carry it.

This week, we are invited to strap on our sandals, take up our walking stick and follow Jesus on the road to Calvary. We are invited to walk that dusty road with our Savior, as he prepares to endure the cruel passion. There is a place set at the table for each of us, as Jesus eats his last meal with his disciples. Like John, we may choose to rest our heads against Jesus’ chest, as he reclines at table. We are invited to stay awake with Jesus in the garden, as he prays to the Father while his disciples sleep. We will watch with sadness, as Peter denies Christ three times and then weeps bitterly, as he watches Jesus taken away to be tortured and crucified.

Jesus invites us to enter deeply into his glorious passion and death. Like the Blessed Mother, we are called to stand at the cross and watch as Jesus endures untold suffering and pain. Like Mary, we are called to be living witnesses of what happened there over two thousand years ago. We are invited to trust in the infinite and unfathomable mercy of our Savior, as he offers up his life, so that we can have our own. We are invited to come and adore. . .

It is a truth of our faith, that there can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday. It is so important that we embrace this invitation of Christ to celebrate the mysteries of our faith in the holiest days of the Church year. In celebrating these mysteries together, we join as a community of believers to share in these transforming moments of our Savior’s passion and death. As we look to the left and to the right, before us and behind us, we see the faces of our brothers and sisters, each of us carrying our own crosses. On some days, we may be given to despair, like my brother in the correctional facility; however, each of us knows that beyond the cross and the grave lays the empty tomb! Jesus invites us to journey with him through this week, so that we can arrive at the place of glory on Easter Sunday, when every stronghold is shattered and every tear is wiped away.

May our shared journey be one of deep spiritual renewal and conversion of heart.

In Christ,
Deacon Tim

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