Sin and Salvific Suffering
We begin Holy Week with the procession by the crowd with palms to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, where at a place called Golgotha, he would fulfill his mission, death by crucifixion for the salvation of the human race from sin and death. During the Passiontide, we listen to the passion narrative, according to Matthew, where our own story of sinful culpability confronts us. We read about the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, denial by Peter, cunning act of the Pilate, shout of murder by the crowd at the instigation of the elders and the Pharisees, heart-wrenching death of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary, his burial and sealing of his tomb.
From the Mount of Olives to Golgotha, from the sweating of blood and arrest of Jesus at a place called Gethsemane to his gruesome crucifixion at Golgotha, we prayerfully contemplate the passion of Christ, and we arrive at the question: why did Jesus have to save us through this most horrible suffering unto death? To answer the question, I will borrow the words of St. Anselm of Canterbury in his book on the incarnation, Cur Deus Homo? (Why did God become Man?}. In a conversation with Boso in Bk 1:11 about satisfaction for sin, Anselm argues that the only way the debt our sin incurred could be satisfied is by God himself paying the debt because we are incapable of paying for it:
"If someone sins, he has to restore what he has taken away before he can be clear of fault. So then, every one who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God. This is the satisfaction which every sinner owes to God."
Jesus satisfied what we owe God by our sin through his suffering on our account, his passion, and death on the Cross. Let us unite our prayers and penance with the Lord's Passion during this time of pandemic restrictions when our liturgical life seems stunted, but graces still flow from the fount of the Church's sacrament celebrated before empty pews. The entire liturgy of the Holy Week will be live-streamed to you on parish Facebook page and YouTube videos posted afterward on our parish website. I intend to keep the scheduled times for the Triduum, Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, Good Friday Liturgy, and Easter Sunday mass as posted on our website and in Lent and Easter pamphlet sent to you.
As you enter into the mystery of the Holy Week, I recommend you read Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Dolores (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/hlthwork/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris_en.html) and watch Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Cross (if you have the heart to endure the gory graphic scenes illustrating the evil effect of our sins)
In Christ Crucified,
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP