Our emotions are never the most important components of religion and faith. We have all seen the rituals of certain religions in which emotions are fanned to white hot intensity, and most of us would conclude that there’s not much, if any, engagement of the intellect or the spirit in such frenzy. Usually, it’s an orchestrated “high” that makes the participant feel she is in an other-worldly state of being – and that’s all.
Genuine appreciation of Jesus’ passion and death takes the form of deep gratitude for the totally unselfish gift of himself and of committing ourselves to join him in the transformation of the world into the very Kingdom of God on earth.
That gratitude does not have to be accompanied by tears or emotional response of any sort. It is proven, it is validated, by our personal involvement in the cause for which he offered and gave his life – which was what? That we, God’s human creatures, would all be one, living in peace, harmony, and mutual respect –
– that we would know beyond all doubt that we are loved unconditionally by our Creator and are called into existence primarily to love all other creatures;
– that we are to be about the business of building the Kingdom of God here on Planet Earth by every constructive, supportive, forgiving, healing, life-giving word, action, and attitude that we can contribute.
So what will we do, not just today but every day, to advance that blessed cause? That is the question that opens the way to the only acceptable response to Jesus’ life and death and resurrection.
I have a friend who is very successful in the world of finance and business; he is also a loving husband and father, a faithfully practicing Catholic, a generous giver to others in need. Our last meeting began with his telling me that he is very depressed by the worsening condition of our world: the wars, the suicide bombings, the abuse of children, the corruption in government and industry and finance, and so on.
I asked him if, when he was a child, accommodations of any kind were made for handicapped persons. He said no, none that he could recall.
Were the retarded, as we used to call them, or brain injured children on his block or in his neighborhood written off as idiots, as misfits? He said yes. He remembered occasionally making fun of them along with his young friends.
Did he know of any war previous to World War II after which the conquerors helped the conquered to recover and build a new future? He answered no.
I asked him, on the basis of that little quiz, to think about the progress we are making as we continue in the evolutionary development of the human race. I urged him not to be discouraged by the progress we still have not achieved and to keep in mind that we are a people on the move (as was emphasized in the Holy Thursday ritual of last night), not wandering aimlessly, trying to find our way, but being led by the very Spirit of God. He said that such thoughts, which he had not been alluding to for some time, did make him feel better and more hopeful.
What Jesus did, in his life and in his accepted death, was for the sake of us here on earth. He admitted that he could not accomplish the task alone. He needs us, he invites us, he waits for us to commit ourselves with increasing generosity to the lifelong project that he himself has undertaken.
Our response to Good Friday is to resolve again to join him in living lives of love, compassion, forgiveness, faith, and perseverance – learning by experience that sometimes our efforts, like his, require a painful price.