Jesus understands painful deaths.
He was tried as a criminal instead of being hailed as the just and merciful King that he is. He was tortured with countless lashes. He was bruised. Beaten. Mocked. Other people's spit on his body, probably on his face. He was bullied and belittled. He was betrayed by his closest friends.
Maybe he was tripped while carrying his cross to Cavalry Hill. Maybe the soldiers kicked dirt in his eyes. And all of this, all of this in the presence of his mother and a few women and one of his male apostles. You know how mothers get when their child is in pain and they can't do anything to stop it. She was in pure agony.
They were all in pure agony, watching the Son of God drag his death instrument on his bleeding and oozing back up to the Place of the Skull. Only a few were brave enough to support him. Only a few were brave enough to watch him die.
Jesus suffocated to death. That's what crucifixion does - it causes suffocation.
It's a very painful and slow way to die.
He was there for three hours.
Water was filling his Sacred Heart for three hours.
He gasped for breath for three hours, more painful with every second that passed.
His muscles ached to hold him upright, to try to keep breathing, for three hours.
He bore and accepted all of the sins of the world in those three hours.
I don't know theologically if this next opinion of mine is true, but I can't help but think that accepting our sins was the hardest part. He's pure, holy, unblemished. Yet he accepted our sins. He drank the cup of justice we were supposed to drink.
We deserve(d) hell. He made sure we had a chance to enter heaven through his sacrifice.
He thirsted for his sacrifice to be accepted by sinners. He thirsted for divine justice to be second to his divine mercy. He begged Our Heavenly Father to forgive us, his murderers, because we know not what we do when we sin.
Jesus suffocated to death. The God of life ... died. He died.
His lips lost their color. So did his rosy cheeks. He hung limp on the cross. His mother ... in pure agony. Tears streaming down the women's faces, little John, the Beloved Disciple, heart broken.
I went into depth about Jesus' death because Jesus understands what many people in America are going through right now. People are passing away (by the hundreds in some places) because of COVID-19.
They pass away because they aren't able to breathe.
In that way, their deaths are similar to Our Lord's death.
People are passing away from natural causes, too. But it's not like before, where family members could be present to them in their failing health in nursing homes or hospital rooms. COVID-19 has made the opportunity to be present to a loved one dying limited or impossible. Funeral attendance is also limited or impossible, too.
I'm sure Our Lord's disciples, family members, and friends who weren't present when Jesus died were heartbroken and sick to their stomachs and ANGRY about Jesus' death. I know people who have had to say goodbye to family members without attending the funeral. Although the disciples could freely choose NOT to be present at Jesus' death and funeral and modern family members and friends aren't able to attend because of CDC guidelines, the feelings they all experienced are very similar.
I wrote this to remind you that Jesus understands pain.
He entered into horrible pain so he could help us know how to enter our pain. I mean, he prayed for us to be saved from his Father's wrath from the cross! How amazing! We are only worthy of Our Father's mercy because of his perfect Son's sacrifice. By his blood we are washed clean. By his cross we are saved.
A popular Catholic teaching is our belief that Jesus helps us transform pain into redemptive suffering, just like how he transformed his painful death into redemption for the whole world.
When we offer our pain and suffering up to God as a prayer, he can use that offering to help others. Jesus used his cross to save the world.
Our suffering, through Jesus' power, can help others. Offering up our suffering in union with Christ is a beautiful way to help sanctify ourselves and the world.
Pray with more fervor that God will remove COVID-19's deadliness from our lives. Pray with more faith that God will provide a cure. Pray with more fervor that His Way be accomplished sooner. Pray with more faith that somehow during this crisis we can be more merciful, loving Christians who resemble Christ more than ourselves. Pray that all souls come to know Christ and accept His love for them in a transformative, life-changing way by the end of this crisis.
Pray that the people who have passed away during this time make it to heaven and find rest with God there.
Pray for those who are suffering in grief right now because COVID-19 killed their loved one(s).
Please join me in the following prayer:
Jesus, thank you for being ours. Thank you for being a God who went through a lot of hardship for our sake. You did it out of a burning, passionate desire for us. You really really really love us. Help us believe that and do what you ask us to do. You purchased for us the rewards of salvation and asked us two main things in return:
"To love the Lord, Our God, with all our heart, mind, and strength - and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves."
Help us do that every day and in every way, Lord.