When I was in the seminary, I took a course on “Loss”. I suppose you could say its premise was that our society teaches us how to win, but does not teach us how to lose or accept the loss of our independence as we age or become ill with some disabling illness. Death is not something we think about until it is forced upon us. I remember my grandmother once said to me that it is important and helpful to meditate on your own death from time to time. Believe me, folks, I’m not trying to be morbid here, but really, how do we deal with our own Good Friday, with the suffering and pain and eventual death of our own lives?
Fr. Corapi once said something that really struck me. He said that aging is comparable to mounting our own Golgotha, our own cross, but we are not there alone, we are with Christ. Fr. Richard Rohl spoke to the priests at one of our presbyteral convocations several years ago and he mentioned how our culture tells us to seek more, get more, be more. But our Lord tells us to sell what you have and give to the poor, to not seek money, fame, or power, but seek rather to serve, to love, and to forgive. And this is true, this is what the cross of our Lord teaches us about honor, fame, power, and even ability and dependence. He was completely dependent on the Father’s provision. It is about learning and doing the Father’s will. This is where we will find true satisfaction, meaning, and purpose in our lives. It is not the awards we win, the honors we receive, the purchasing power we may or may not have or the power or size of our home that defines or satisfies us. Our desire for them is really deep down a desire for love, acceptance, tenderness, for connection and intimacy.
In his book, Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Album records his interviews with Morrie Schwartz and at one point in his book he records Morrie saying, “We put our values in the wrong things. And it leads to very disillusioned lives…We’ve got a form of brainwashing going on in our country…Owning things is good. More money is good. More property is good. More commercialism is good. More is good. More is good. We repeat it – over and over – and have it repeated to us – over and over — until nobody bothers to even think otherwise. The average person is so fogged up by all this, he has no perspective on what is really important anymore…Giving of yourself to others is important, not the money but your concern, your time, your storytelling.” (Mitch Album, Broadway Books, NY, pg. 123-125)
Lent gives us an opportunity, sisters and brothers, to step back and ask ourselves some hard questions about our life: Am I being the person I want to be? Am I ready to meet my maker? Am I finding purpose and meaning in my life? Again it comes back to stripping away the false self, to stripping away all that prevents us from truly loving God and our neighbor and all that prevents us from receiving and feeling loved as well. We can look upon the cross of Christ and ask him for courage, faith, and hope to embrace our own Good Fridays, that we may experience the radiant joy and light of Easter.
God’s peace to all of you.
Fr. Michael Phillippino