During my time in seminary formation, I would often go to a certain church in St. Louis for confession. The parish was served by two older Capuchin Franciscan priests and they heard confessions every day at 11:00 am. On one occasion, after making my confession, the priest invited me to reflect on the Cross in a way that I have never forgotten. He invited me to look at a crucifix (like the one on the end of a Rosary, or one hanging on a wall) and to ask three questions:
- Who is that?
- Why is He there?
- What does it mean to me?
The first two questions were easy to answer, especially for a seminarian who thought he knew pretty much everything about Jesus! But that third question was much more difficult. What does the Cross mean to me? It is a question that I still struggle to answer adequately. It is this question that the entire Church is being invited to consider each year when we celebrate Holy Week. We always begin on Palm Sunday by listening to the Passion narrative from one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke). We then return to the Passion narrative on Good Friday, this time from the Gospel of John. The Church offers these two narratives in order to keep the Cross before us. We look to the Cross, we hear the stories, and we each should ask: “What does this mean to me?”
For your prayer this week, I would like to invite you to pray with the crucifix and reflect on those three questions as a way of coming to better appreciate the love Christ showed for us in His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. But this is not my challenge for the week! Instead, I want to invite you to something a little more difficult, but much more fruitful, in fact, I think this will be the most fruitful of my Lenten challenges should you choose to accept it:
Challenge: Attend all the Paschal Triduum Liturgies
Fruit: Deepened appreciation for Christ’s love for us
Because these liturgies are not “days of obligation”, we do not always give them a lot of priority, opting to focus on Easter Sunday. But these liturgies are so extremely important to us as Catholics, because they place before us the culmination of God’s saving work for His people. We are invited to celebrate these liturgies with a real awareness that all that Jesus did, especially in these sacred days, He did for you and for me. Our relationship with Him becomes much more personal to the extent that we enter into these mysteries with this awareness. And as we see these events unfolding for us once again, answering that third question – “What does it mean to me?” – will be much easier to answer and will enkindle with in us a desire to live for fully for Him who has died for us.