When I lived in Peru, one of the things that I most admired about the Peruvian people are their gifts of compassion and solidarity. I found this to be especially true among people who have limited material resources. When another person or a family is suffering, they suffer. Oftentimes that is because they have experienced a similar difficulty or threat or loss in their own lives, so they understand what is happening to others. And, in their compassion, they reach out to accompany the person or family in their sorrow or concern.
But it does not stop there. Their compassion moves them to the practice of solidarity that plays out in two ways: one is to look for a way out of the suffering, a possible solution, and the second is to look to others to join in helping to relieve the suffering. They might have few resources, but when those resources are combined, there is often a way out. And when they work together, they come up with some ingenious solutions to the problem or challenge facing them.
Then when the group achieves a solution to the problem or challenge, they know how to celebrate! The fiesta is a wonderful way to rejoice in a happy ending.
When we contemplate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can see that same thing happening. The triduum begins with a celebration—the paschal meal that celebrates the liberation of the chosen people from slavery in Egypt. Jesus transforms that meal into the celebration of a new freedom—offering a table where there is room for everyone, transforming the washing of feet and the simple gifts of bread and wine into sacraments of God’s presence among us.
But very quickly we move into suffering—the agony that Jesus experiences in the garden and the inability of his companions to accompany him, the arrest at the hands of his friend turned traitor, the mockery of a rigged trial and false accusations, the inhumane treatment by the soldiers, the mocking of Pilate and his condemning Jesus to death despite knowing that Jesus is innocent, stumbling under the weight of the cross and then being lifted up on it and experiencing all the pain and suffering, both physical and spiritual.
But in the midst of all the horror of “Good” Friday, we see the gestures of simple people reaching out to Jesus in compassion and solidarity: the women of Jerusalem weeping for him, Veronica wiping his face, the women at the foot of the cross accompanying Mary in her sorrow and Jesus in his suffering, Dismas who defends Jesus, the Roman soldier who offers him something to quench his thirst and finally, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus lowering Jesus from the cross and laying him in a borrowed tomb. Compassion and solidarity.
And then comes the fiesta! The women go to the tomb early Sunday morning, ready to give Jesus the last rites of burial, and they find not death, but life, and it is life to the full! It is the life of Jesus within us that helps us to see with his eyes of compassion, to join hands with one another in solidarity, to celebrate the gifts of life, of hope, of joy that are the gifts of the resurrection. Alleluia!!