The Passion According to John
There is nothing more humbling as a presider than on this night in what we will do in just a few minutes when I’m sitting on this chair watching everyone come forward to venerate the cross in some way, whatever way we choose. It means even more as you get to know people’s stories, listen to their confessions, walk with them in their struggles, and be with them when the cross is staring at us straight in the eyes. It’s a humbling experience because the cross is very real.
Yet, it’s also somewhat awkward and somewhat uncomfortable for us as we approach and venerate. We become accustomed as humanity to think that somehow my suffering is only mine and that no one else would understand and somehow I stand alone and don’t want everyone to know how I suffer. It’s mine. Yet, if one of us suffers, we all suffer. The human condition tries to tell us that, but coming up here and venerating it in our own way reminds us that it’s real, pain and suffering are real in all of our lives, and this one cross that we walk to and journey to this evening unites us all in the One True Cross of Christ.
We run the risk as we do at Christmas to make this into a strictly historical event, that because Christ suffered death, even death on a cross, that I no longer have to. Yes, it did happen but from the moment we are presented at this baptismal font on the day of our baptism, that cross is emblazoned on our hearts and souls and we enter into a mystery that is beyond words and so often beyond understanding. We know it from our own suffering and when we face that cross, it narrows our vision, the pain is real, at times have difficulty seeing hope and life, we become consumed by the Cross trying to lead us to being consumed by Christ. Christ’s death gives dignity to our death and allows it meaning.
The Cross gives us something to push against…and we push and we push and we push, and we pray and we pray and we pray, and we hope and we hope and we hope, and one day God pushes us through that cross, for it is only in death and in this Cross that life breaks forth. As much as we may not like it, it is the reality. It is the mystery we celebrate tonight. We know we can spend weeks and months and years pushing and praying and hoping and pushing more, trying as Jesus tells us, to be pushed through the cross, pushed through the narrow gate, pushed through the eye of the needle. It’s hard. It hurts, It’s painful. But when we finally surrender to the mystery of life and death and allow God to push us through the Cross, life happens. We may not see it right now in our lives, but life happens.
As we approach this cross this evening and to venerate it in whatever way God has called you, allow yourself to name that cross. What does it look like in your life? How has Christ suffered with you? How have we suffered with you or maybe even alone? We can push and push and push, and we can pray and pray and pray, and we can hope and hope and hope, and when we can name it and accept that it is us, a crack opens and God pushes us through to new life, not only in eternal life but in the fullness of life he desires for us today.