Next week, we will be celebrating the three holiest days of the liturgical year – the Sacred Triduum. As we prepare for these days, we should strive to receive the abundant graces God desires to give us so that our love is deepened and we may love as he loves.
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Papal Household, recently delivered a homily to the members of the Roman Curia on St. Paul’s appeal to the Christians of Rome to let their love be genuine, before he delivered a series of messages to them. “This is not one of many exhortations,” the papal preacher notes, “but the matrix from which all the others derive. It contains the secret of charity.” That secret is that our love for others and Christ must not be hypocritical but “true, authentic, and not feigned.”
Even though Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested, whipped, beaten, mocked and ultimately crucified, he did not fail to love his persecutors genuinely. His first words from the cross were a prayer asking the Father to forgive those who had crucified him, which includes all sinners from the beginning of time until its end. Jesus also spoke words of comfort to Dismas, the thief who was crucified next to him but who defended him from the taunts of the thief on Christ’s other side. Dismas’ simple cry of the heart, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” led Jesus to respond in love, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
It is not unusual today for Christians to be similarly derided. Father Cantalamessa describes this as “the hostility, the rejection, and the often deep disdain with which not only Christians but all believers in God are regarded by broad sectors of society, in general the sectors that are the most influential and that determine normal mainstream thinking.” When you are considered foolish for your faith, just as Jesus was by those who ridiculed him as he hung on the cross, let your love for them be genuine.
Instead of getting lost in self-pity and bitterness, if we ask Jesus for a heart like his Sacred Heart, then we will be filled with what Father Cantalamessa calls “an attitude of deep compassion and spiritual sadness, of loving these people and suffering for them, of taking responsibility for them before God—just as Jesus took responsibility for all of us before the Father—and of not ceasing to weep and pray for the world.”
On the night of the Last Supper, the day before he was to be crucified, Jesus assured his disciples that he would not leave them orphaned. He told them: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (Jn. 14-16-17).
Having a heart that is ready to selflessly love others is impossible without God’s grace. As you approach Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday this year, ask God the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit and form your heart so that you can love genuinely. Pray for the grace to love as Jesus loved.
Do not become, in the words of Pope Francis, “parked Christians … Caged Christians who don’t know how to fly with the dream to this beautiful thing to which the Lord calls us.” Rather, let us allow the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds and move us to love others genuinely.
With the salvation Jesus won for us and the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to live the Resurrection with abiding joy and gratitude and build up the Kingdom of God on earth.