Lent is a time for unlocking. Unlocking the doors of hope. And unlocking the doors of our hearts that keep us stuck in fear and trembling, imagining what might befall us.
Jesus stands in our midst, saying: “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
But we wonder: How can we possibly have peace in a world that is fraught with dangers and threats on every side? In a world that’s bombarded with news of ISIS, infidels and insurrections? We worry incessantly about our families and our futures—and about how this world’s collective insanity will ultimately play itself out.
“Peace be with you…When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced.” (John 20:20)
The same men who had cowered in fear behind locked doors minutes earlier now rejoiced. And not in spite of Christ’s open wounds, but because of them. Suddenly, they could see clearly that death had not “killed Jesus,” but that it had made Him stronger, freer—and glorious.
The atheistic German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, infamously said, “God is dead, and we have killed him.” Nietzsche also said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” We hear that phrase quoted constantly in our culture. Our idols even sing award-winning songs about it. And there is some truth in the saying.
Yet a deeper Christian truth lies in the mystery that, paradoxically, what kills us can indeed make us stronger. Jesus said it this way: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (Luke 9:22) Jesus had just made His triumphant entry in Jerusalem, after predicting that He would be rejected and killed. Then came His searing invitation: Follow me.
Twenty-one Christians followed Jesus down a beach in Libya, where their blood ran together with water, just like His did on the Cross. The men shrouded in black sent forth videos of the massacre as “a message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.” What they fail to understand is that Jesus already sent a message signed in His blood to the entire world. And the message is this: Take courage, I have conquered the world.
Wherever blood spills in His name, life springs up, renewing and re-creating the Church in the power of the blood of the Cross. Death loses its sting, and the very violence that attempts to kill the Cross fertilizes parched humanity with an offering of love, sewing seeds of faith that can only be sewn through blood and through water. For, indeed, these are the signs of God’s death on the Cross—and they alone can give true life.
We begin Lent under the banner of the Cross—wearing it publicly on our foreheads—proclaiming that we, too, are terminal. But we also declare that with Christ and in Christ, death becomes the door to life, the passageway through which we enter victoriously into eternity. Twenty-one Christian martyrs who died on a beach in Libya know this now.
Let us begin Lent by unlocking the doors of our hearts and allowing Christ to enter them with the full force His love and His peace. And let us stand together in solidarity with those who have died under the sign and power of the Cross. We remember their sacrifice, and we pray that it makes us stronger.