If you ever make it to the Holy Land, I encourage you to go to the Holy Sepulcher early in the morning. The place where Jesus died and rose becomes a zoo after 9 am and while it is a great tourist attraction, if you go after 9, you are not really going to have the chance to pray. But if you get there before 7 or so in the morning, it is one of the most peaceful places on the earth. Every time I go to Jerusalem, I get up early, walk through the old city, walk into the sepulcher, go to the right and up some stairs and I am right at the place where Christ died. There’s a little spot in the corner that I like to go and sit in and pray before the cross. Now I will admit I get distracted and it becomes great people watching. It’s always fascinating to me to watch people’s demeanor as they come before the cross. Allot of people come up, get their picture go down the steps and disappear, others come up and bend down to touch the location and offer a prayer, but what has surprised me as I have watched people up there is how many people walk up, wait in line and when they come before the cross they break down in tears, just sobbing. I remember the last time I was there I saw time after time, people who just seconds earlier seem perfectly normal but when they hit that spot broke down in tears. I remember thinking to myself why. Then it dawned on me, this is the place where God died so that you and I could have hope in eternal life. This is the place where God died so that we could live forever. This realization then begged to me ask the question what is my attitude towards the cross.
Sure, not everyone will be blessed with the opportunity to go to the place where Christ died, but how many times a day do we walk before a crucifix? What is our attitude? If we are honest, how many times do we walk before a crucifix and not even notice it? Is not the crucifix the reminder of what God did for us? So, when you do stop and do come to prayer and look at the crucifix, what is your response? What is your interior attitude?
Isn’t it almost scandalous that God would send His son into the world to die for us mere humans? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to process that, it is beyond comprehension. Friends, I don’t think any of us can truly make sense of the crucifix. But even if we can’t make sense of it, we can still profess it and I think that is the call of today’s gospel. We don’t have to totally understand why God would die on the cross. In fact, people often ask me why would Jesus go through all that pain and suffering on the cross. When you stop and look at the crucifix and you realize what God has done for us it is very easy to ask why and if we are honest it is easy for us to look at our own faults and failures and say I am not worthy of that.
Well my friends we are worthy. Not because of anything we have done, but because God has deigned to make us worthy to be saved. Do we have the humility to acknowledge that? Do we have the humility to acknowledge that God loves us so much that He was willing to come into the world to suffer and to die for us? Sure, maybe we can’t process, maybe we can’t totally understand it, but we can live our life as though it happened because it did.
I don’t know about you, but I guarantee that if someone saved your life, you would have a totally different outlook on life. If you were near death and someone swooped in to save you, you would leave that near-death experience with a whole new outlook on life. You would find focus and energy and want to live your life for a purpose.
Well my friends that is what God has done for us. Without Christ’s passion, death and resurrection there is no hope. Without His passion, death on a cross, and resurrection, you and I could not be saved. If God didn’t hang on that cross, you and I could have all the fun we wanted on this earth but when the lights go out, that would be it. But God swooped down to save us. Now we have to live our lives with a purpose. Now we have to live our lives with a focus.
Did you know that the average life expectancy in the United States is only 78.6 years? For easy math, let’s say 79 years. That means the average person in this country only spends 28,835 alive on this earth. Multiply that by 24 hours and the average person only spends just under 700,000 alive on this earth. The doctors say we should sleep 8 hours a day so the average person doesn’t spend more than 461,000 hours awake on this earth. That’s not allot of time when you stop and think of it.
When we look at the cross, you and I are challenged to ask ourselves how are we making use of that time. You know our only response comes to us from today’s responsorial psalm “Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you.” If we truly believe that God has saved us, our lives will never be the same. We will never be able to forget Him.
As a priest I go to allot of receptions, but one of my favorite receptions is the medal of valor awards for local law enforcement. Every year about 30 or so local law enforcement officers are commended for heroic actions that include gun battles, running into burning houses to rescue people, etc. and there always seems to be in attendance some of the victims who were saved. When you talk with the victims, without fail, every single one of them will tell you that they will never forget the officer who saved them. My friends, those heroic officers should be honored and remembered, but God has done something far greater. He didn’t just save our earthly live, no He saved us for eternity. How can we ever forget Him?
As we prepare to celebrate Easter in just a couple of weeks, we are preparing to walk with Jesus through His passion, death and resurrection, but in order to do that we need to spend some time looking at the crucifix acknowledging that those celebrations are the story of our salvation and then we need to ask ourselves how am I living my life. Maybe we can’t make sense of God dying for me, but I can live my life as though He did.