The Catechism of the Catholic Church at 1026 reads that “By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has “opened” heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ”. As we begin our Lenten journey and prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord and Savior, it is good to reflect on what was done for each of us on that first Good Friday over 2000 years ago.
I imagine being a witness to what was happening in those final hours of the life of this man who showed only love to all he met. I knew him only as a healer of both physical and spiritual afflictions. He was kind to everyone even that tax collector who we all despised. I heard he had even protected an adulteress from being stoned. What right did he have to stop the righteous from enforcing God’s law? I saw a few of His miracles and heard of others. Some of my friends told me that He even raised someone from the dead. How could this be true? Raising someone after four days in a tomb simply could not be true. Maybe this man was possessed by demons like some said he was, but I felt sorry for this man because it appeared that this He was a good man. Even though Jesus may have been a good man, He should not have challenged the religious leaders and the Romans. His words and deeds were going to get him into trouble.
I was in the crowd that morning when He was presented to us and the Roman prefect asked what we wanted done with Him. I hesitated because I didn’t know what to do but then everyone started screaming to crucify Him. I thought to myself, what do I do? Jesus didn’t commit any crime, but He claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah. This claim is blasphemous. Standing there bloodied and beaten, why didn’t He just free himself if He is the Son of God? He has blasphemed and has not freed us from Rome. My friends are looking at me and suddenly they start screaming for the insurrectionist, Barabbas. I didn’t want to get involved but I knew Barabbas was fighting the Romans to free us from their oppression. I don’t care if Jesus dies because I want Barabbas to live. What has this Jesus done for me? So I started screaming for Barabbas too.
That afternoon I went back to my daily activities without even realizing that Jesus died. His death didn’t affect my life. I did not know that His death changed my life and He brought forgiveness. He even forgave me for my betrayal because He knew I didn’t know what I was doing.
Each of must reflect on where we would have stood on that very first Good Friday. What would we have done if we had been part of that crowd watching as a man wearing a crown of thorns and a makeshift royal cloak was presented to us for sentencing? Today we know what He did for us without hesitation but where would we have been then?
Today we can reflect on the promise He made and have hope that with our final breath He will be waiting for us along with all those who we loved while traveling along a faith filled path toward paradise. I see in our Catholic cemeteries only hope that our faith will be fulfilled on the last day when the promise made will finally be kept.
When we kneel at the grave of our loved one, their death causes us to grieve but it is the promise that gives us comfort in the knowledge that this separation is only temporary.