by Father Mark Goldasich
So, did you do it?
In my column last week, which dealt with distractions that can lure us away from the things that are truly important, I suggested a pre-Holy Week activity: Find out the times at your parish for the Triduum celebrations — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, in particular — mark them down on your family calendar and commit to attending them.
OK, I’m going to bet that most people got distracted by other things and failed to note those times on their calendar or, horror of horrors, didn’t even read my column in the first place.
So, I’ll make the plea again: Please make a commitment as a family to attend the Triduum services at your parish, especially if you’ve never been to them before. These are the most important events of our church year and each celebration has unique elements to it that remind us of the fundamental truths of our faith.
Each year, I pray that the church will have overflowing crowds for the Triduum as we do on Easter Sunday. Well, it hasn’t happened yet . . . and, honestly, that makes me sad.
Especially at this time of year, I recall this haunting and obscure story about St. Martin of Tours, told by his biographer Sulpicius Severus:
In the fourth century when Martin was a bishop, he received an apparition. It seemed as if Christ, arrayed in kingly attire, was appearing to him.
“Acknowledge, Martin,” the apparition said, “who it is that you behold. I am Christ. And being about to descend to earth again, I wished first to appear to you.”
But Martin kept silent.
Again, the apparition spoke, “Martin, why do you hesitate to believe, when you see? I am Christ.”
Finally, Martin knew what was really happening and replied, “The Lord Jesus did not predict that he would come clothed in purple and with a glittering crown upon his head. I will not believe that Christ has come, unless he appears with that appearance and form in which he suffered and openly displays the marks of his wounds upon the cross.”
With that, the devil was exposed and immediately vanished like smoke.
Severus concludes that Martin had a firm conviction that Christ always bears his wounds. If he doesn’t, that’s not Christ; it’s the devil.
Saint Martin was a wise man. No doubt, he recalled the story of Jesus appearing to Thomas after the resurrection. The wounds of Christ were clearly visible in that scene from the Gospel of John, where Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (20:27).
You’d think that because of his resurrection, those wounds of Jesus would be healed. But that’s not the case. One of the reasons for those wounds is very simple: It’s because Jesus gave his life for us out of love.
And love always leaves its mark.
People welcome the pleasurable side of love: its companionship, support, joy and dreamy promises. But they often forget or choose to ignore that love has another side as well: It’s a call to humility, to sacrifice for the sake of another, to put the needs of others before our own.
And it’s that divine, irrational love that is on display during the Triduum. We see Jesus serving others (symbolized in the washing of feet on Holy Thursday); feeding their deepest needs (in instituting the Eucharist on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper); undergoing excruciating suffering for the sake of others (on Good Friday); being an unfailing light in the darkness of grief, loss and despair (at the Easter Vigil); and forgiving our sins through the waters of baptism that give us new and everlasting life (at the Easter celebrations).
Such an intense love invites a response. Leaving behind the distractions of trivial things and walking instead with Jesus through the Triduum is the best response.
Make plans right now to celebrate the Triduum this coming week — not out of a sense of duty, but to return, in some small way, our love to Love.