It’s that time of the year again where we crucify Jesus Christ. We commit sin so many times in a year that Jesus symbolically has to be crucified by us. Not that we’re saved when Easter comes – we have sought salvation since the first Crucifixion – but every year, a few days of spiritual self-mortification often become excuses for beach trips and long vacations.
I dread Lent because it forces me to reflect on such a sustained, prolonged period; far longer than I could stand.
I put myself in the shoes of the many characters responsible for Jesus Christ being crucified. Like Peter, I deny. Like Judas, I betray. Like the people, I condemn. Like Pilate, I wash my hands off everything. I sin – the present tense being the condition and situation of man while he exists – and therefore every sin I commit is another welt made by the flail, another blow to the cicatrices of Christ, another barb in His crown of thorns.
At Lent, it seems that all of this is forgiven by going to Church, avoiding meat, and waving palm fronds on the last Sunday before Easter.
I’m not the best Catholic or Christian – I might as well be condemned to Hell for the neglect I give the religion I was born into – yet there’s nothing like the feeling of guilt. You bear it, you are wounded by it, and you try to rise above it knowing that every effort you make will always be weighed down by it. Yet the supreme sacrifice of Jesus, in his mortal form, was to absolve even the most cruel of soldiers, the most petty of thieves, and the loudest of hecklers not only of sin or of trespasses, but of guilt. That guilt, for us, is perhaps even optional. Christ has already died for our sins. For all intents and purposes, it’s quits between us and the Lord: the fires of Hell become just part of the menu.
I do not believe it’s possible to live life without sin, yet we’re offered ways out of it; the free, if not inconvenient and uncomfortable, passes that let us share in the suffering of the Lord. It’s a suffering none of us have to go through or perhaps even replicate, but it’s the minor inconvenience that comes with the greatest teachings of the faith: to follow in Christ’s footsteps. To love your neighbor. To forgive those who trespass against you. To do unto others what you would like others to do to you. To be led not into the path of temptation and seek deliverance from evil. To pick up your cross, and follow Christ.
Yet it’s just easier, human, if not natural, to deny, to betray, to condemn, and to withdraw. The Way is just too strewn with pain, with suffering, with inconveniences that are beyond what we are willing to bear. We become the accomplices to the crucifixion that rather than follow the Lord in the way of the Cross, we stand at the sides and play our parts as the apostles who make mistakes. As the townsfolk who jeer at those among us who stand for things bigger than themselves. Or as the soldiers who whip and flay and poison Christ in everything we do, justified by our own inflated and misguided sense of right and wrong. We become the procurators who condemn Jesus to death.
Such is the way of the Cross, for in our weaknesses a simple promise of turning away from sin at Ash Wednesday is so easily forgotten. Yet the way of the Cross should remind us that we have the power to absolve those trespasses and transgressions. That if we cannot be granted life everlasting in a moment of constant sin – we are not saints who can resist the waysides of evil and convenience – then we can move on to life itself.