Lent has very much been a journey for me. I've found myself among the pages of Exodus, following the trials and tribulations of the Israelites; my own relationship with God and with those that I serve has developed into a journey, taken one step at a time; and from Connecticut to Indiana, I've physically traveled throughout the last forty days. Yet, as Lent comes to a close, I find that the journey has led me to the place where each one of us finds ourselves before the glory of Easter- at the cross.
Last year, I found myself standing before an instrument of murder, a stark structure clothed in a deep crimson cloth. This year it is not the cross itself but Christ's body, particularly his hands that strike me.
Reflecting on the paschal mystery this past Sunday, the pastor of the Jesuit parish, which I frequent here in Philadelphia, examined the nature of mystery. Boiled down, his point was that mystery is Truth. That is, mystery is Truth which can only be understood through means of divine intervention/explanation. Thus, in order to invest in mystery, you must buy into God and you must believe that there are some things that we either will never know or that we can only believe through the grace of God. Heavy enough for you?
Now you might think that'd be enough to keep my mind buzzing for the coming Holy Week, and it probably should have been, but what really struck me was an (almost) off-hand comment that the pastor made in the course of his homily. Speaking about how the mystery of Easter is bound up in our salvation and the salvific mission/role of Christ, he spoke to the image of Christ on the cross. "We must consider that when Jesus was crucified, his arms were stretched out like this," he declared stretching his hands out from the ambo, "this is a position of openness, of readiness for embrace."
Pause. Now if you're anything like me, at this point you may be ready to a) roll your eyes b) write the message off for being hackneyed c) just stop listening, because you've heard this sermon before. And that's what I was prepared to do (and probably why what he said next took me off my guard and stuck with me.)
"With arms open, Jesus waits for us on the cross this week," he continued, "but he can't embrace us. His arms may be open, but his hands are nailed in place, unable to move. In this moment, God, who we encounter so often showing us mercy, is at our mercy."
And like that, hands that I've held so often in prayer, hands that have held me, are bound. God stands open to me, Christ's arms are forced open but his Spirit is freely given. In such violence and vulnerability, love is so very prevalent. A life is given. If I embrace the broken body of God here, mercy is shown, mystery is uncovered, and Truth can be revealed.
What does it mean to give so much? To give everything? To be alone with you?
Here is salvation. Here are hands working for salvation. Here, I Am.