The Social Dimension of the Celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery

Apr. 10, 2020

Reflection from Elton L. Viagedor, OFM
Promotion of Church People’s Response – Davao City

The Paschal Triduum refers to the threefold celebration of the Lord’ Supper (Holy Thursday), the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday) and the Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection (Easter) is the most important “celebration of faith” for us Christians. In these holy days, we remember God’s supreme act of Love. That is why every faithful is expected to spend these days in prayer, reflection, and worship. Aside from the liturgical celebrations that we normally have in our churches, this sacred time also asks each and every one of us to read the signs of the times so as to find more radical ways of living our mission as disciples of the Lord and hence, express more profoundly the significance of the paschal mystery in our everyday life.

In this reflection, I would like to underline the social dimension of remembering and celebrating the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection. It will be good to keep in mind that “remembering” does not simply mean revisiting an event in the past. To remember the paschal mystery means “experiencing it anew” that is, to make the memory of Jesus truly present in the here and now! When Jesus said in the gospel “Do this in memory of me!” he is commanding us not to simply celebrate such “memory” in a sentimental manner but to be continuously transformed by it and to live out its meaning in our present context and situation.

Jesus’ offering of himself on the cross is an expression of his self-emptying love (Philippians 2:6-11). He came among us, suffered and died on the cross so that we may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10)! The celebration of the Lord’s supper and passion on the cross is a dramatic remembering of his self-offering so that we may experience the fullness of life. This celebration also challenges us to be willing to share in his passion and be ready to offer ourselves in order to give life to others. Our society today is ravaged by many death-dealing situations. Aside from those who are greatly affected by the crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19, every day, many people are suffering and dying due to hunger, homelessness, other forms of sickness, joblessness and labor exploitation, lack of basic social services, war and calamities, the wanton violation of human rights, oppression and marginalization brought about by our inherently unjust socio-economic and political structures. God’s creation, our common home, is also suffering from these realities which are driven by greed and indifference.

In the face of such a situation, how are we to live out the “meaning” of the Lord’s life-giving passion and death? Jesus is asking us to liberate ourselves from all forms of selfishness and egoism. He is calling us to radically offer ourselves in service of those who are victimized by the death-dealing situations of society especially the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. To this, a powerful example is shown to us by the COVID-19 frontliners who have literally given up their lives so that others may live. The face of the crucified Christ is radically revealed in the face of the poor and in the face of the suffering creation! Jesus is calling us to hear the “cry of the poor and the cry of the earth.” May our devotion to Jesus’ crucifixion lead us to become sharers in his life-giving mission not just through acts of charity but also in our collective effort to change the structures of inequality and injustice that perpetuate the “realities of death and suffering” in our society.

The highlight of the paschal mystery is the celebration of Easter. It is Jesus’ victory over sin and death and the triumph of God’s love. In the same vein, we have to put into the heart that resurrection will be truly meaningful if there is an experience of inner conversion in us, an experience of radical dying to one’s self and being “born again” in Christ’s love! To celebrate Easter also means being renewed by living a “new life” – a life marked by radical love and service for others. Moreover, Easter tells us that the last word of our existence is not death and suffering, but the fullness of God’s Kingdom. It is our mystical hope that no matter how difficult the present situation is, we have the certainty that in the end, God’s love, justice, and peace shall triumph. Hence, in the face of the realities of poverty, suffering, marginalization, sickness and the destruction of the environment, we continue striving to become “bearers of life.” We persevere with faith and courage in our mission of standing against the death-dealing situations of our society no matter how arduous and impossible it seems to be. We never despair because we have the sure hope that ultimately, God’s love and mercy will be victorious. As St. Paul puts it: “If we truly share in the passion and death of Jesus, we shall also certainly share in his resurrection (cf. Romans 5:6).” This is God’s promise. This is our Easter Hope!(

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