Of all the images that have been created that portray the Passion of Our Lord, one of the most moving has to be that of Michelangelo's "Pieta", in which we see Mary with her son's body draped over her lap. She is looking down at the face of Jesus with an expression of sorrow and anguish. We are reminded of this powerful image every time we read the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, as we did today.
While this moving image is one of sorrow, it should also bring us great joy and hope, as it depicts the greatest moment of salvation history. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, accomplished his mission. He suffered and died for our sins. Through his blood, our sins are washed clean.
Our Lord's sacrifice on the Cross was prefigured in the covenant that God made with the Israelites. Through the law given to Moses, the Israelites were commanded to offer the sacrifices of goats and bulls so that the transgressions of the Israelite people would be forgiven. These sacrifices were not a one-time-only event, but needed to be repeated year after year.
The mission of Our Lord was to be the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice that would end all other sacrifices. No longer would animal sacrifices be necessary for forgiveness of sins. Now we unite ourselves with his sacrifice through the waters of baptism which washes away our sins and make us sons and daughters of God. Likewise, through the Eucharist, we participate in the sacrifice of Christ. At every Mass, we are standing at the foot of the Cross with Mary and the beloved disciple. Even through 2,000 years and many thousands of miles separate us, the Sacrifice of the Mass makes this moment present to us wherever and whenever we are.
Today, as we venerate the Cross, may we be able to do so with great joy, but also with the realization that Christ died for our sins.