Theme: The Sacrifice of the Cross: A Paradigm of Christian Sacrifice
Since the fall of Adam, humanity has known no peace. Suffering and death has been the lot of man so much so that life is nothing but misery. This death was not restricted to physical death but included spiritual death. Man’s soul lost the hope of paradise. In this miserable condition, God did not abandon His people because of the great love He bears for them. He initiated plans to save them. This plan began with making the people conscious of their evil ways and directing them in the right path. He made covenants with them and gave them regulations through the patriarchs and prophets. At His appointed time, He sent His Son for the culmination of man’s redemption through the great sacrifice he offered. Though the Israelites had previously offered sacrifices for sins, their sacrifices were incapable of cleansing them because they were made with blood of animals. There was need for a higher victim, so Jesus became the victim and the oblation.
In the first reading (Is. 52:13-53, 12), we see a picture of the suffering servant, a pre-figure of Jesus who through his suffering and death will cleanse and save the world. This suffering servant is the sacrifice offered for the forgiveness of sins. In the passion narrative (Jn. 18: 1-19:42), we see the manner and form in which this sacrifice was offered. The story line of Jesus’ passion and death is an old and familiar story. Every action is significant and points towards our redemption and salvation. This evening, we shall reflect on the significance of Simon of Cyrene in the passion narrative and on the significance of the burial of Jesus.
The Significance of Simon of Cyrene in the Passion Narrative: The gospels record that on his journey to Golgotha, fearing that Jesus would die before reaching there because he could scarcely walk, the soldiers mandated Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross behind our Lord. Simon of Cyrene is a reflection of an ideal Christian life – that of carrying the Cross behind our Lord. It is not only Christian to carry one’s cross but more Christian to carry one another’s cross.
It is because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that we are saved and he wants us to reciprocate by sacrificing for the salvation of others through assisting them in their crosses. Today, Jesus is still carrying an old rugged cross in those who can’t pay their hospital bills and be discharged, those who can’t afford three square meals, those who are suffering unjustly, those who are victims of intimidation and have nobody to speak for them, those in need of education but can’t afford one, etc. Jesus wants us to help him in carrying these crosses and do not forget that whatever you do for them, you did for Christ. What sacrifice can you make today to better their situations?
The Significance of the Burial of Jesus: The passion narrates two significant events that point out to the same concept of sacrificing for others: Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ remains and Nichodemus’ sacrifice of myrrh to anoint Jesus’ remains. Today, we are also invited to emulate these virtuous men in identifying with those who suffer. On the streets, we encounter victims of accidents or armed robbery, yet many of us walk away without any sign of sympathy or assistance. Around us, we find the sick, aged, lonely, rejected and dejected, what effort have we made to identify with them. Joseph was not shy to identify with Christ even after his execution as a criminal. Sometimes, we deny people our sympathy and help because of the social stigma they bear and this is wrong.
Identifying with them may be in form of encouragement, comfort or alleviating their suffering in any kind we can sincerely offer. Nichodemus sacrificed a mixture of myrrh. How much have you sacrificed for the good of those suffering around you? For those who are suffering, whether justly or unjustly, whether people identify with you or not, do not be despaired. Be happy when you share in the sufferings of Christ. Jesus knows what you are passing through. That is why the second reading assures us that Christ our high priest has been similarly tested in every way we are though he did not sin. So let us confidently approach his throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace when we are in need. Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the mystery of the Lord’s passion and death, may God forgive our sins, assist us in our sufferings and give us the grace to identify with those who suffer. Amen. God loves you.