March 25, 2005

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Families living out of sync in the world

The life of the Church during the Holy Triduum seems out of sync with the way its life is lived during the rest of the year.

The times when we gather for worship are different. The ways in which we worship stand in striking contrast to the ordinary celebration of the Eucharist.

Only during the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper does the celebrant wash the feet of members of the congregation. Only during the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion do we venerate the cross. And it is only in the great Easter Vigil that our worship starts in shadows and ends in the bright light that scatters the darkness.

The difference of these three days suggests that something important was revealed to creation in the events that happened 2,000 years ago, events that enter our own time and space here and now.

Up until the time of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, his disciples at best only had a faint understanding of his true identity. But after the events of those three days, their eyes were opened. Eventually, their tongues were loosed as well to proclaim the Good News that they had experienced in the risen Lord.

It also suggests that the truth revealed in those culminating events of Christ’s life on earth do not resonate with what the world believes to be true.

After all, Jesus achieved ultimate victory in a death that the world would see as the worst of defeats. This contradiction can still serve as a challenge to us today.

But do we accept it? Are we willing to shape our lives according to the model that Christ gave us in his suffering and death, a model which is absurd to the world in which we live?

I will be the first to say that it is very easy to pay honor to this mystery with my lips, but more difficult to let it live through me in my every thought, word and deed. I want to embrace it with my heart, but before its power and its challenge, I too often shrink back.

It is natural for us to forsake the folly of the cross because we think that we are far removed from it. We celebrate it year after year, but it does not seem to have the dramatic effects in our lives that it did for the Apostles.

The events that we recount in the Triduum dare us to show the world in which we live a different way of life, one that is out of sync with what we see so often all around us.

Instead of families finding fulfillment in collecting more things, we can seize success in learning to live with less and giving more to those who are truly in need. Christ emptied himself on the cross, giving everything of himself to us in love.

Instead of focusing on our ambitions, climbing the ladder of advancement in our careers and hearing the adulation of the crowd, we can lower ourselves in humility, turning our hearts to our children and the hidden life of our home. Christ humbled himself and took the form of a slave, obediently accepting death—death on a cross.

What we celebrate in the Holy Triduum isn’t far removed from us. It is as close to us as our homes, our schools and the places where we work.

Maybe we like to think that it is stuck in a world 2,000 years ago because then we don’t have to confront the challenge that it sets before us in all of these places.

Yes, the message of the Triduum is out of sync with our world. But there is Good News to be found there. This is what the Apostles experienced on the morning of the first day of the week. We can experience it in our own lives as well. †

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