In Christian tradition a mystery is something which we cannot fully comprehend. But we must not stop there. When we talk about the mysteries of our faith we cheapen them if we regard them as simply things that baffle us. On the contrary, the mysteries of our faith are the signs of divine life into which we are drawn. A mystery draws us into itself. By sharing the life it gives us, we begin to understand, even although we understand only in part. As St Paul famously wrote, our present understanding is like seeing a dim reflection in a mirror. Only in eternity will we know fully and see clearly (1 Cor. 13.12). The three holy days of Easter are days of mystery: and they are days of life. On Holy Thursday we meet Christ at the Passover table with his disciples. He says and does something completely unprecedented: he says of bread, this is my body. He says of wine, this is my blood. Since he spoke those words, we have done what Jesus has done, believing that he is here with us even although we cannot fully explain how. Truly, the real presence is a mystery. But it is a mystery that we enter into, and begin to understand as we live the eucharistic life. You can never make sense of the Catholic faith by standing outside and looking in. You have to have the courage to enter and to share it. The eucharist, the Mass, is part of this. We understand by giving ourselves to Christ who comes to us in this moment. An observer, an onlooker, will not understand. The same is true of the mystery of the cross. On Good Friday we stand with Mary and John at the foot of the cross and we shudder at the suffering we witness. Yet even as we mourn Christ’s sufferings, we find here too a source of life. Christians in pain, in sorrow, in desolation, have been consoled by the memory that Christ also suffered. The Son of God experienced to the full what it meant to be a suffering human being. Like everyone else, we wonder why there is so much pain in the world. Here, too, we can understand only in part. What we can say is that God chose the way of the cross to show that he is with us and for us. God in Christ endures not only physical pain but also the wrongdoing that human beings can inflict on another. The cross is therefore a rebuke to us. By confronting us with what human beings can do, the cross admonishes us to cease inflicting hurt on one another. All human suffering is reflected in Christ’s suffering on the cross. If we look on him then truly we should be unable to hurt others. But it also tells us that when we are in pain ourselves, we can bury ourselves in the wounds of Christ who knew what it was to suffer. Both Holy Thursday and Good Friday only make sense in the light of Easter Sunday. Without the resurrection we could have no sense of Christ present among us in the unique and special way that the Eucharist makes possible. Without the resurrection the crucifixion would ultimately be a defeat. In fact, in the resurrection we find that God turns human weakness into divine strength. The weakness of our sin is transformed by God, through the cross and resurrection, into the challenge to live a new life through his grace and loving forgiveness. The love that God shows us in the cross points us forward to the resurrection, for Christ has shown that his love for us is greater than his love of life itself. In his book Introduction to Christianity Pope Benedict (at that time Joseph Ratzinger) wrote this about the cross and resurrection: ‘Only where someone values love more highly than life, that is, only where someone is ready to put life second to love, for the sake of love, can love be stronger than death and more than death.’ On Good Friday God shows us exactly that kind of love. In this love, Christ lays down his life for the world. And in this same love, the Father raises up Christ as a sign that love has overcome death. This love lays down its life for others. Then this love is given back to us as the source of life, now and into eternity. This is what we celebrate each and every Eucharist.
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Saint Paul of the Cross, Bl Jerzy Popieluszko
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