What is Lent all about? What is the passion and death of Christ all about? It could be summed up in one word. A well-used word, so well used that is has become trite. The word is love. Only love makes Christ believable. Only love makes sense out of Lent, out of the passion and death of Christ.
Perhaps, no other word better sums up Lent than the word passion, the passion of Christ. Something happened to Him. He suffered. The priests plotted again Him. Judas kissed Him. The crowd laid hands on Him. Herod laughed at Him. Pilate delivered Him to be crucified. The guard whipped Him. The soldiers nailed Him to wood. The passers-by jeered at Him. A thief cursed Him. And He died.
What happened to Jesus? What He suffered makes sense only in the context of what He did. The one thing He did supremely more than anything else, better than anyone else, He loved.
When Jesus knew that His hour had come for Him to pass out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. Loved them to the uttermost limit of love, loved them totally and loved them to death. It is because of love of us, of you and me that Christ died. No other reason.
St. Paul sums it up – God loved me and gave Himself for me. Show me a man writhing on a cross and I will be moved to pity, to disgust, and to horror at man’s inhumanity to man. Show me a man writhing on a cross in love and surrendering His body to crucifixion because He loves me. Then I will be drawn to belief, to self-giving, to love in return.
This is the challenge of Lent and of Holy Week. The effort of love to draw love. His love to draw mine. We are reminded of His love at every Mass. That moment when time turns back and Calvary comes alive in the words – This is My body, which is given up for you. This is My blood, which is poured out for you. It is love alone that makes Christ believable.
So it follows that love alone makes the Christian believable. Christianity is not an idea floating freely in outer space. Christianity is people, God’s people. Christ and Christianity will be believable only if your love makes you believable.
Your love as a Christian will be believable only if you realize that your love is not believable enough. Only if we are honest enough to confess that Christianity is less attractive than it should be because our love is less believable than it should be.
So many of us Christians think that it is the person next to them or the previous generation or the Bishop and the institutional Church that is lacking in love. But we are all members of the Church and what we do, the Church does. What we fail to do, the Church fails to do. Because of us people should know or at least suspect that Christ loved them enough to die for them.
Christ now works through us and we have to be other Christs. That is a tall order, but it is a mandate we all received at our Baptism, to be like Him in His life and in His love. It may not be easy. It may mean a crucifixion, but it also includes a resurrection.
Love one another as I have loved you – by this, all will know that you are My disciples.