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It was necessary...

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Third Sunday of Easter. Fr Thomas Crean preaches on the necessity of the sufferings of Christ and the Church. 

Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things?

Yes, the Passion of Christ was necessary. And we need to beware of a certain way of thinking and talking about our Lord¹s life which denies or distorts this truth.

According to this false picture, the crucifixion would be a tragic and untimely end to Christ¹s life, the simple result of human malice, and imposed on him from outside. On this view, his death would not have been the goal of his life, but merely its termination. This theory contradicts our Lord's own words. Shortly before his death, he speaks to the people of Jerusalem of a commandment which he has received from his Father, and which he means to fulfil. Does he identify it here as a commandment to preach or teach, to heal or to work miracles?

No. He says:

I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up again. This commandment I have received from my Father. (Jn. 10:18)

These are words we need to think about often. Our Lord received from his Father a command to die, that he might rise again; and he fulfilled it in filial obedience.

Not, of course, that he provoked others to kill Him! There was no need. It was sufficient for him to be who he was, and to speak the truth about God and man.

But if he did not resist the plots made against him, if he did not call upon the twelve legions and more of angels which his Father would have sent had he but called for them, this is because the cross was jis goal. Only there was his life's work to be consummated.

God, who is love, gives to his Son a commandment to die a terrible death.

This mystery is at the heart of Christianity. Any attempt to deny or dissemble it would turn our religion into something other than itself.

Why did He give this commandment? There are, of course, many reasons, more than we can know. It was so that our Lord might pay the debt which we could not pay; it was so that he might merit eternal life for us; it was to prove the depth of his love; to show us the gravity of sin; to fulfil the Scriptures; to give us an example of love, and constancy, and patience.

But in today¹s gospel, we find yet another reason. Christ suffered because this was the necessary way for him to enter into his glory.

Since the fall of Adam, no one enters paradise without passing through the gate of death. Our Lord Jesus, as a son of Adam, willed to take this route also. Indeed, it was he who opened it up, as the 'pioneer of our salvation'.

Like some intrepid explorer hacking his way through dense jungle into a lost land, he went through death in order to return to his Father. By the fire of his charity, he has burned a path for us to follow in our turn.

Shortly before he made this path, he told Peter,

Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow hereafter.

This prophecy is fulfilled, not only in St Peter himself, but also in those united to Peter.

The Church on earth knows various tribulations, in the likeness of her Lord. She experiences betrayal, calumny, torture. None of these things are signs of God's displeasure, any more than was the crucifixion of his beloved Son.

The Church takes the same path as her Lord. For her too, it is

necessary that she suffer these things, and so enter into her glory.

Amen.

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Readings

Acts 2:14,22-33
1 Peter 1:17-21
Luke 24:13-35

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