Today, and throughout this Holy Week, we have in our Liturgy a stark reminder that the hope that we have in the Resurrection was purchased at a great price. Life in our world today would prefer to ignore the Cross. And with good reason. Because the Cross is embarrassing. Until Christianity, no religion worth its salt would base itself on a god who suffered an ignoble death that was reserved for the most obstinate of criminals. And, you know, we’d rather not dwell on pain, would we? We live in an age where there is a pill for every minor pain and a treatment for every discomfort. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing, but then we can often take it farther and find ways to mask any pain, physical or psychological, that comes our way, and this is not healthy.
The Cross is an in-your-face reminder that pain is part and parcel of our life of salvation. Jesus did not come to take away our pain, he came to redeem it. Not only that, he came to take it on himself. Far from being embarrassed by our sin and pain, Jesus took it to the cross, redeeming our brokenness, and leaving us an everlasting promise that there is no pain too great for our God to bear and there is no way we can ever fall so far that our God can’t reach us. There is a theological principle that basically says “whatever Jesus did not assume, that was not redeemed.” But Jesus left none of that behind on the way to the cross. He took our every hurt, our every pain, our every sin, our every shame, our every resentment, our every emptiness, and left them all there at the foot of the Cross.
I know there are many among us now who are carrying pain with them each day. Maybe it’s unconfessed sin, or maybe it’s a broken relationship. Maybe it’s the sadness of the illness or death of a loved one. Maybe it’s the splintering of a family. Maybe it’s a hurt that goes back to their childhood, or they’ve received a frightening diagnosis about themselves. Maybe it’s difficulty with their job or career, or trouble in a marriage. Maybe it’s a loneliness that they can’t seem to shake. For all of us who are hurting in any way, all we have to do is look at the Cross and realize that there is nothing our God won’t do for us. He may not take away our pain right away, but he will never ever leave us alone in it. And ultimately, he will raise us up out of it.
That’s the message of these Holy days. This Thursday evening, we will celebrate the giving of the Eucharist and the priesthood, so that Christ would always be present to us in the Church. On Friday afternoon and evening, we will have a chance to embrace Christ’s suffering with a reflection on the Passion, veneration of the Cross, and reception of Holy Communion. Finally, on Saturday evening, we will gather here in a darkened church to hear stories of our salvation and to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death. We will welcome new members into our community, and rejoice with them in our Risen Lord. I invite you to enter into all of it, embracing the suffering, and being caught up in the celebration.