The preface for the Mass at the start of Lent refers to this “Joyful Season.” Many of us are startled by this reference. For most, Lent has always been a season of sacrifice, of penance, a time when we focus on the Cross.
As you look at the Cross, did you ever ask yourself the question, “Why did Jesus die like this?” If He had been a mere man, it would have made sense. He could not avoid it. He was up against impossible odds, and the cards were stacked against Him. But, it is different for the Son of God.
He did not have to become like us and be born into our world. He did not have to get tired and thirsty or dusty and angry. He did not have to take insults from His own creatures. He did not have to sweat blood in a garden and beg his Father, “Don’t let me die.” He did not have to be condemned like a common criminal. He did not have to die.
Why then did he die? A clue comes from God’s own book from the Gospel of John -“God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, and that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” St. Paul says in amazement, “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” Yes, Jesus did it all because He loved you. If you were the only person in the world, He would have died for you.
But then you might say, “Couldn’t God have discovered a different way, a way less difficult than death on Calvary?” Couldn’t God have simply forgiven us and asked only that we be sorry for having offended Him? If this were not enough for Divine Justice and if God’s son had to somehow touch our earth in person, why didn’t He come as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
Why did He have to become human like us? Why did he have to experience meekness, fear and weakness? If God, the Father, wanted Him to die, why couldn’t He have died in bed and died with dignity? Why ask Him to die in a bloody disgrace, mocked by the world for which he was dying and the world He created? Frankly, I do not know. I suspect no one knows, save the God who invented the Passion. But it certainly got our attention…