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“Christ’s thorn-crowned head lies low on his sacred breast and no longer are there any signs of life in him. His eyes see nothing—and yet nothing is secret or hidden from him. His ears hear nothing—and yet he knows all things even before they come to pass. He, who endows all flowers with sweet scents, smells nothing, and he, who gives life and supplies food to all the living, has lost his taste. He, who opened the mouths of the dumb, is now unable to move his lips, and he, who taught his followers, cannot utter a single word. The tongue that spoke only the truth is now silenced, and the face once brighter than the sun is now without color.
“His cheeks, fair as those of a turtledove, have lost their radiance, and his hands, that stretched out the heavens above, are pierced by hard and sharp nails. His knees, so accustomed to being bent in prayer, are now naked and limp, and his legs, those marble columns that used to support his body’s weight, are now unsteady and powerless. His feet, so often weary from going about preaching are now iron-bound to the wood of the cross.” (On the Passion of Christ: According to the Four Evangelists by Thomas à Kempis, p.143-4)
My friend Thomas à Kempis wrote that.
Last week, Palm Sunday, I shared with you a passage from a Stephen King book and in the process, confessed that I read and reread his books. There’s also Dean Koontz and several others of a similar genre. Cousin Janie will tell you that when I get to pick the movie, it is going to be about zombies, giant raging spiders, aliens, and the likes. What I don’t like in my books and movies is real life. Someone being eaten by a zombie is fine. Someone being hurt by another person, whether emotionally or physically… not so much. Books, films where the dog dies… never. (And I still haven’t forgiven J. K. Rowling for killing off Harry Potter’s owl, Hedwig.) What’s the difference between a zombie killing off someone compared to another person doing the same? For me, what even seems like real life pains and hurts in a movie or a book, begins to hurt my soul, because although the movie or book may be fiction, it could actually happen. I know it’s not real when Godzilla goes crashing through Los Angeles.
So, when I am confronted with the reality of Jesus’ death… I hurt, because I cannot avoid it and then I become angry at those who did this to my King. And then I become more angry when I realize that I am as equally to blame as they. With Simon Peter, I want to cry out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Yet, Jesus responds as he did to Peter, “Do not be afraid.” It is for this reason that I came, so that you and all who call on my name may be saved and have life eternal. I die that you may live.
We may recoil at the site of the corpse of Jesus our King, but in seeing it, we are seeing our salvation; and in faith, we know that his death is only temporary… but, we have not yet reached that part of the story. Today, we are here and there he lies. As Brother Thomas writes, “Such is my beloved, O Daughters of Jerusalem, such is my friend, and it is to this deplorable condition that death has brought him. If I were to die a thousand times for him, it would still not be adequate compensation for his love.”
Let us pray: O sweet Jesus, Redeemer of our souls, who can grant us to die with you on the Cross, and when it it time for us to leave our bodies to share in the happiness of that hour? We ask from the depths of our hearts to allow us, in these frail bodies of ours, to live so as to direct all our actions and desires in accordance with your good pleasure, and that after we prove ourselves through many a temptations, we may complete the course our our lives in the state of grace and arrive at the reward of eternal grace. Amen.