Dying for love (Mark 15:40-47)

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Dying for love (Mark 15:40-47)

By Fr. John Bartunek/ spiritualdirection.com

“We are celebrating the feast of the Cross, whereby darkness was dispelled and the light restored.” – St. Andrew of Crete

Mark 15:40-47: There were some women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome. These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And there were many other women there who had come up to Jerusalem with him. It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day (that is, the vigil of the sabbath), there came Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, summoned the centurion and enquired if he was already dead. Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted the corpse to Joseph who bought a shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joset were watching and took note of where he was laid.

Christ the Lord Jesus died. And so he was able to enter the realm of the dead. The souls of those faithful men and women who had trusted in God and in God's promise during the centuries before the Incarnation were not yet in heaven. They had died in friendship with God, but the gates of heaven were still closed, because no one had yet atoned for the sin of mankind that had closed them in the first place. Now Jesus comes and achieves the atonement. And the first thing he does is to go and announce the good news to the souls who were awaiting their redemption. Now the King has rescued his faithful subjects: Abraham, Moses, David, and his foster father Joseph. Now the mystery of God's saving love is revealed to them in the piercing, loving gaze of their Savior. Now they can experience what they longed for with vibrant faith and faithful hope, the full presence of God as they await the resurrection of their bodies and the final judgment. What a joyous meeting it must have been! Each of his faithful followers hears him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, now enter into the joy of your Lord.” And how Jesus' own heart must have overflowed to say it! How he had looked forward to the moment when he would given them their crowning gift!

Christ reigns supreme over all his creatures, living and dead, faithful and unfaithful. He truly is the Lord. He is looking forward to welcoming each of us as well when our pilgrimage ends.

Christ the Teacher Christ's self-sacrifice on the cross reveals that God's love for weak and selfish sinners has absolutely no limit. Imagine if Jesus had conceded to the taunts of the Temple officials, who promised to believe in him if he would just come down from the cross. Such a move would have shown power, but not love. Love is self-giving for the good of the beloved. If Jesus had been willing to suffer in order to atone for our sins, but not to suffer completely, unto death, then he would have left room for doubt: Maybe God loves me a lot, but not so much as to forgive this sin, not so much as to forgive me yet again… Jesus left no room for doubt. His love has no limits, no conditions, no ifs or buts, only ands: He loved us so much that he became one of us, and he worked and suffered the grind of ordinary life, and revealed God's heart, and he founded the Church to extend his presence and grace throughout all time, and he let himself be betrayed, humilitaed, unjustly condemned, made fun of, and he subjected himself to excruciating physical torments, and he hung helpless on the cross in our place, and he took upon himself our sins, and he, the Creator and Lord of life, died, and he loves us to the end.

This incomparable display of love achieves more than any display of power ever could. It penetrates walled up hearts and opens them to receive God's grace, hope, and rejuvenation. First, the centurion — a battle-hardened veteran who had seen many men die, but none die as Jesus did — receives the gift of faith, and now Joseph of Arimathaea, a wishy-washy would-be disciple of Christ and member of the very Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus, is finally emboldened to declare his allegiance to the Lord. Joseph was most likely present at Jesus' trial, and he may have been the source of the Gospels' accounts of it, but there he feared to speak up even though he had seen Jesus' power and wisdom and felt attracted to the Lord. Only now, after the crucifixion, after seeing the extent of Christ's love, the extreme, inexhaustible flow of his mercy, only now does Joseph find enough courage to become a full-fledged follower of Christ.

For Christ, the greatest power is the power of God's love; for Christians, it ought to be just the same.

Christ the Friend Every person can count on two things in life: suffering and death. Everything else is up for grabs, but these are unavoidable. Jesus knows this, and he also knows that these are the very things we most fear. And so he strides right into them, taking upon himself their full brunt. He already knows that he si always with us, that he understands us completely, that his compassion towards each of us is more perfect than anyone can imagine, but he also knows that we don't know this. He has to show it to us, because he yearns for us to trust him. Ever since original sin, we have had a tough time trusting God; we have been suspicious and fearful. Jesus takes advantage of his Incarnation to wipe away every last vestige of mistrust. He freely and lovingly shares in every brand of human suffering, and even in that great, looming mystery of death.

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 19:48
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