When I was younger, I thought it was a good day because I had the day off school, and I got to dye eggs with my cousins. That sounded pretty good to me.
But I have learned that today is about a much, much, much greater good than some fun family traditions. In fact, it’s so infinitely greater that it’s impossible to comprehend.
When I start to think of it, the image that occupies my whole mind is one that is simple and extremely familiar.
It is displayed above the altar of every Catholic church in the world and throughout many homes and buildings.
It is an image of a man. His hands are flung out to the sides and nailed to the board behind them; his feet likewise fixed to the wood that holds him upright. His clothes are stripped away, showing a bloody wound in his side. His body is limp; his head hangs to one side. He is dead.
Looking at this image for the first time, you might think it is anything but good. And you might think that the man is anyone but God.
Once again, our good God turns our human expectations upside down.
What we consider “good” today is the raw and real way that Jesus took all of our sin and suffering upon Himself.
Our liturgy describes how “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed” (Is 53:5).
He meekly chose to lay down His life and by his perfect love He definitively defeated death forever and for everyone.
He not only opened a way for us to be united with Him in Heaven, but He transformed even suffering into an opportunity for good.
He did all this so that we would draw close to Him by uniting our sufferings to His on the Cross.
We often equate goodness with comfort, with things that bring us pleasure and help us avoid pain. But the disarming image of a God who became man and died on a cross reminds us that there is a good much better than all of these.
Good Doesn’t Mean Comfort, It Means Holiness
Today is a day set apart to remind us that we are called to be set apart- called to be holy.
Today, before we feast, we are solemn. We are still. We fast and deny ourselves the lesser goods of this world in recognition of the greater good before us. We pause from our other pursuits and allow the reality of God’s goodness to dominate our lives.
We echo the words of our King when He stood before Pilate, freely choosing to lay down His life:
“My kingdom does not belong to this world”
As we look at Jesus crucified, we recognize that His kingdom is our kingdom and His story is our story, the story of each and every one of us.
“Jesus has invited us to enter into His death and resurrection as He entered into ours;”
to embrace every opportunity to lay our lives down in love, and so live fully and freely in Him. On this good and holy day, let us ask for the grace to see Jesus’s passion and death with new eyes.
Let us see His story as our own, and offer ourselves in response to Him. Today and every day, let us live out with courage the resounding call of St. John Paul II:
“Do not be afraid to be holy”