“Come, let us worship Christ the Lord, who for our sake endured temptation and suffering.” We have been singing this invitatory all week and at various other times during the Lenten season. At the beginning of Lent we meditated on how and why Christ endured temptation. Now, during the next two days, we will meditate on his sufferings.
Jesus was misunderstood, betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends. He was dragged by night before a kangaroo court, condemned on trumped-up charges, slapped and spat upon by his very judges (according to St. Mark’s gospel) in a shocking display of the self-degradation of the Jewish leaders. Then he was turned over to the hated Roman civil authority, and disowned by his own people, who dared to declare, “We have no king but Caesar,” while the mob screamed for him to be tortured and executed. So indeed he was scourged and crucified. And he endured all of this for our sake.
When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and gave them his body to eat and his blood to drink, his passion and death were only a few hours ahead of him and already very much in his mind. In a sense, by the words and gestures he performed at the Last Supper, he was prophetically inaugurating the events of the next three days. Or, as St. Paul says: “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” What he symbolically did on Thursday evening, he carried out to the full on Good Friday. In the invitatory we sing “he endured suffering” but this endurance was a positive action on his part, the total oblation of himself to his Father that brings about our salvation. “No one takes my life from me,” Jesus says in St. John’s gospel. “I lay it down freely and I take it up again.” By enacting this complete self-oblation beforehand in the sacramental symbol of the Eucharist, Our Lord gave us the ability and opportunity to join him in giving ourselves completely to the Father, and thus participating in the work of our own salvation.
“Come, let us worship Christ the Lord…” we sing. Worship is, or should be, our first instinctive response to what Jesus has done for us, in fulfillment of the Father’s will. We prostrate ourselves in our hearts and in our bodies, in awe of what God has done in becoming man, in taking the nature of a slave, in being obedient even to death, death on a cross. We could not do this for ourselves, or of ourselves, and we can’t imitate Jesus in this even now, except in the Eucharist, that is, except by his indwelling presence and grace. Come, in the next few days, let us worship Christ in the Eucharist, Christ in his suffering, Christ on the cross and, finally, Christ risen and glorious. Come, let us worship, and then let us imitate.