There is a certain strain in the Catholic Church which tends to stress the Resurrection of Our Lord over His Passion and Death. One of the results of this movement, if one can call that, is the appearance in our churches of a Risen Christ rather than a Crucifix near the altar. In my parish, we have a statue of Christ dressed in the garments of a priest, but there is no crucifix to support Him. The idea, therefore, is that He has risen.
In the Funeral Mass, there is a great deal of emphasis that is placed on the bodily resurrection from the dead. Once again, this is a fruit of this particular movement. Rather than stressing the Four Last Things (Heaven, Hell, Judgment, and Purgatory) and the need of souls for intercessory, the Funeral Mass becomes a celebration of life. I’m not saying that it’s inappropriate for a priest to give a homily in which extols the deceased virtues, but I do have a problem with white vestments. If it’s a funeral, then everything should be black and mournful to remind us of our last end.
The emphasis on the Resurrection is a good one and a necessary one for us as Catholics since it is one of the primary mysteries of our faith. However, we must never forget that the Resurrection came after Our Lord made the supreme sacrifice for us on the Cross and lay in the tomb. Had the Passion not occurred there would not have been a Resurrection and Our Lord would not have harrowed hell.
There is also another reason for why there should be more emphasis on the Passion in our parishes and schools. Quite simply, all of us are on the royal road of the Cross.
Imagine a mountain with a peak that cannot be seen from your vantage point underneath it. It is extremely high with a jagged and snow-capped peak. From the distance, the eye see people falling off the road or being dragged down. Small cross-like shapes fall with them. Some of these people get up, start at the beginning of the road, and carry their crosses again while there are others who sit at the base. Those last mentioned do not carry their crosses, they merely sit at the bottom of the mountain and look up at the peak knowing that it is worthless to continue the journey.
The closer one comes to the mountain, the more one sees a procession of people ascending its heights. Young and old, religious and lay, bishops and beggars, millions and millions are climbing those heights. Some crosses are so heavy that the carriers are bent double while others are light. Some walk with halting steps underneath their burden, while others are much swifter on their feet. The road they walk on is well trodden and bloody. Countless others have walked that road and at every bend, there stand those creatures uglier than sin itself who drag souls off the road.
The higher one ascends the mountain, the easier it becomes. Yet there are moments of uncertainty and sorrow along the way. When the night falls on those millions, they do not know where they are going. Some give themselves up to despair and leave their crosses on the road. Others just keep fighting to go ahead. Still others, continue in the knowledge that they will get to the top.
Then, at that final ascent, we see Our Lord and His Mother and all of those others who have made it to the top. We hear those eloquent words of the Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant, go and enter into the joy of Your Lord.”
Each of us ascends this mountain every day of our lives. All of us carry different crosses that are as much a part of our identity as our names and the clothes we wear. For some, the cross is unemployment or an illness physical or mental. There are those who constantly struggle against different temptations and sins like anger, lust, and pride. Then there are still others. All of us are on the royal road together. Each of us is obligated to carry our cross to the end.
In the Psalms, King David writes that we are lucky if we live to eighty years and then notes that most of our lives are full of sorrow and weeping. Looking at our lives, it is easy to see how true these words of Scripture are. From the day of our birth to the day of our death, sorrow is an ever present companion. Yet with that sorrow, there comes an intense joy and that joy comes from knowing that one is doing His will.
As Catholics, the Passion and the Crucifixion will always remain for us one of the main focuses of our faith. It is our duty to think about this school of suffering and to meditate on it. Our Lord will show us the way forward, assuredly, but we must always be open and willing to listen.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!