And he loved me.
I think of that young man whenever I meditate on a crucifix. I see Jesus hanging there, sterile and mostly clean, and I try to imagine what it must have really been like. I remember how my young man just listened, how he held me when I cried, how he never once condemned me.
Jesus must really love me.
When He agonized in the garden, He begged His Daddy to take this cup, but “not My will, but Thy will be done.” Though He had no desire to experience the suffering, the torture, the burden, He was willing to do it. When He felt the lashes on His back, He didn’t fight back, He didn’t call names, He didn’t try to escape.
Why do I think, in my pride, that anything I can do will shock God, the Father who loved me enough to have His SON hang on the cross and die a torturous death? Why do I hesitate to run into His arms, arms that are stretched wide, just waiting to hold me? What keeps me away?
It’s easy for the story of the Passion to become old news. It’s easy for the story of my salvation to become one more memorized tale I tell my kids. It’s easy to forget that raw feeling I felt all those years ago when I was stumbling home, blind to everything but the pain.
We’re surrounded by love stories and fairy tales, on TV and in books, but so often, we ignore the love story that should inspire us in our everyday life, the one that happened leading up to the very first Holy Week. It’s grueling, that love story. It involves blood and tears, a weeping mother and weird weather, miracles and excesses. What must it have been like to be there? How can we make it new so that we can, once again, appreciate it for the gift it is?
This week, we’re so close to Easter joy, the Risen Christ. But let us not forget that the path to joy involves hardship and suffering, and that we are in the very best company in our travels.
This year marks my ninth anniversary of Easter as a Catholic. That young man, the one who led me Home, will be beside me in the pew, probably holding one of our daughters.
I’ll smile when I see the crucifix on Easter morning, because it will remind me, once again, of how much Jesus must love me.