Usually, the passion and death of Our Lord that are recalled at this time of year conjure up feelings of misery, anguish, and gloom. In our churches perhaps on a weekly basis during Lent, we retrace the steps of Our Lord as he is first condemned to a horrible death, then forced to carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem, falling under its weight, meeting the grieving women of the city, comforting his afflicted mother, and getting so week in the process that he ultimately requires the help of Simon of Cyrene. Eventually, he reaches the hill of Calvary where his garments, along with his bloody skin, are stripped away prior to being nailed, hands and feet, to that heavy cross. We are reminded that the Lord and Savior of the world endured unimaginable torture and brutal cruelty as he died a slow, heartless death.
Then, why, you might ask, do I use the word “splendor” in the title of this blog post? As I consider the bigger picture here, I realize that his death in this manner was necessary, even important. I am reminded that this vicious death did something overwhelmingly positive for us. As his skin was being stripped away with his garments, our sins were stripped away with God’s powerful hand, the gates of heaven were majestically opened for us with the blare of trumpet blasts, so that we are now able to view the splendor of the face of God.
As a result, all this violence and insensitivity, this inhumane, pitiless treatment at the hands of his enemies in Jerusalem, are all forgotten. For now we behold the face of God and share in his glorious brilliance.
We see a glimpse of this in the Scripture at the precise moment of his death. St. Matthew tells us: “And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”
So let us not forget, as we celebrate, yes, celebrate, the passion and death of Jesus Christ this Lenten season, that as horrible and despicable it was, it was also grand and wonderful. It placed the splendor of heaven on our horizon. Let us decide, here and now, to live our lives, not in a shadow of a sad and lonely place called Calvary, but in the brightness of the marvelous horizon of a place where God wants all of us to be some day. Amen