Accompanying Jesus to Calvary - and beyond
By Archbishop Philip Freier
March 10 2016Many of us are journeying through the 40 days of Lent looking to Jesus’ time in the wilderness as the pattern of our spiritual pilgrimage in preparation for Easter.
Should Our Lord have given in to the devil’s temptations, this would have led to the betrayal of His identity and the destruction of His mission. All temptation opens a path that eventually ends in self-hatred, destruction or despair.
Of course, unlike our spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and alms-giving, there are many in the world today, including many Christians, for whom the 40 days of Lent has not been a self-imposed discipline but a time of imposed bitter trial. The Christians of Aleppo in Syria, for instance, along with other Christians throughout Syria and Iraq have endured this period with even more profound uncertainty about their future than before. Starvation, and the destruction of churches and monasteries, have pushed these communities of our fellow believers to a place of terrible pain and desolation that is very much like Our Lord’s road to Calvary. I pray that their hope and faith in Christ will be strengthened and blessed even when everything around them is in such turmoil.
As we accompany Jesus throughout his time in the wilderness, we also accompany Him as He draws close to the Cross. The great Three Days of Easter, commencing with Maundy Thursday and continuing through Good Friday to Easter Day, are times when we are called to reflect deeply on the unity we have with Our Lord and the whole experience of his life and ministry.
The Scripture that we read on these days both informs our devotion and helps frame our response to living in a world so full of contradictions. 2 Timothy 2 is one place in the New Testament which emphasises Christ’s life as the pattern for ours. Paul could not be more succinct in verse 8: ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David – that is my Gospel.’ Keeping Jesus Christ at the centre of our devotion and our perspective on life is the key to all else that follows. In verses 11 to 13 Paul quotes, possibly from a baptismal hymn: ‘If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny himself.’
For us and for our brothers and sisters hard pressed by destructive forces, the message is the same: keep Jesus Christ at the centre, remember the life-changing reality of our baptisms, endure the contradictions of the world knowing that Jesus has gone before us through many sufferings as the ‘pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12.2), so that we might share in His Resurrection life.
Let us use the freedom we have to be more intentional about following the counsels of God revealed in Jesus Christ, more ardent in prayer for those suffering for their faith and, most of all, more confident in the reality of the Resurrection promise which is ours in Christ.