“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
We have been on the road, walking toward the cross with Jesus this week. This passage from Hebrews evokes for me a picture of following Jesus as he races towards our salvation on the cross. In Hebrews 11 Paul lists the great cloud of witnesses, all the saints who went before, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Moses and Rahab. They walked by faith, not by sight, longing for the time when God would fulfil his promise to send them a mighty Savior. Now that Christ has come and the promise has been fulfilled, what is holding us back? Let us get up, throw off the weight of this world and the sin that clings so closely to hold us down. For Jesus is going before us, leading us through the cross to “a better country—a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16).
For Jesus, the cross was a place of utter degradation, shame, humiliation and unimaginable suffering. Jesus took upon himself all of the sin, evil, and suffering of our world, including all of the darkest places within ourselves, and through his own body, he put all of it to death. Through his death, we are set free to follow him on to that heavenly country. Jesus endures the degradation of the cross, disregarding the shame, because of the joy set before him. His great joy, for which he willingly endured such suffering and shame, is that he brings us, and many others, with him safely through that dark and dangerous valley of death. He guides us through to the other side, in victory over death and sin to resurrection. We are the joy that was set before him. He has walked ahead of us, leading the way for us like an intrepid explorer, a pioneer, a guide on the frontier of our salvation, which he perfected upon the cross and through his resurrection.
Our participation in Jesus’ great act of salvation is through our faith in him. During these great three days of the Triduum, we are remembering this tremendous endeavor that Jesus took upon himself out of love for each one of us. Only unconquerable Love could bring us through the darkness of death to the brilliant light of the resurrection. This time of being sequestered in our homes during Holy Week and Easter, by a different kind of valley of death, has given us the opportunity to set aside the usual preoccupations of our lives and enter more deeply into this great act of Salvation that Jesus accomplished for us and for the whole world. The Lord’s redemption has been accomplished. As we walk these last few days towards the Day of Resurrection and the days beyond, we can remember that our Lord is walking ahead of us toward the throne of God. He has cleared the path of all obstacles. So, “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
A blessed Easter to all of you!