The Way of the Cross: The Cycle of Life and Death and Rebirth
Why did Jesus have to die? Did you ever wonder what provoked Jesus’ total self-giving?  St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that Jesus died so that we might know, really know, God’s great love for us. 
For the Jewish people of the first century, they relied on their unique relationship with God.  God had entered into a covenant with the people.  This covenant said: I will love you forever and there is nothing you can do that will ever make me love you less.  This covenant, when accepted, was life-changing.  When they received into their hearts this unconditional, unfailing, never-ending love, they became more loving and compassionate and caring…. For most of us we have learned it the other way around.  We think that if we are good and kind and compassionate then God will love us.  God already loves us.  Our goodness flows from that love. 
Jesus died because of the way he lived his life.  He came to save people.  He was the long awaited Messiah but not in the way the people expected.  The Jewish people of the first century lived under Roman rule and longed to be free of that oppression.  They longed for their Messiah to establish a kingdom on earth. But … Jesus came and established the Reign of God – a way to live that would change unjust structures.  Jesus died because he came into conflict with the religious leaders of the day.  He loved the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized.  He forgave, and didn’t judge, the sinner.  He taught that God was a God of love and justice.  Jesus gave his life willingly because of his intimate relationship with Abba.  His life was in total alignment with the God who sent him. 
Lent calls us to reflect on why Jesus died and how we can die to self so that others may live.  We are called to pattern our lives on Jesus.  At the Last Supper, Jesus knew that his end was near.  His actions had consequences and he was prepared to face them.  As he sat at table with his friends he said, “I have greatly desired to eat this Passover meal with you.”  Imagine…. knowing that his end was near he embraced the moment of joy with his friends and left them and all of us, the gift of his life. He commissioned his followers to follow his example, “As I have done for you, so you must do for one another.”  Jesus called us all to serve one another.   His final gift to us was to “lay down our lives for one another.”
The way of discipleship is not easy. But ... it is full and rich and rewarding.  It brings the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”   When we keep our eyes on all that we have, rather than what we want, we realize how truly blest we are. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
May God’s transforming love set our hearts on fire with love for one another – and for our world.
- Sister Pat