"Jesus, by his sacrifice, has transformed the greatest iniquity into the greatest love."
VATICAN CITY — In anticipation of Holy Thursday, Pope Francis today directed the Church’s attention to the Sacred Triduum, which he called “the summit of the entire liturgical year and also the summit of our Christian life.”
Addressing the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Wednesday general audience, the Pope reflected at length on the celebration of the Sacred Triduum, when the Church liturgically commemorates the mysteries of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
“We begin the Triduum,” he said, “by celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, as we recall Christ’s offering of his body and blood to the Father, which he gave to the Apostles as food for their nourishment, with the command that they perpetually celebrate these mysteries in his memory.”
On Holy Thursday, he said, “we recall also the Lord washing the Apostles’ feet, through which he showed that the purpose of his life and passion is to serve God and neighbor, a service which we are called to imitate by loving one another as he loved us.”
This purpose, the Pope explained, is also expressed in our Baptism, when the Lord’s grace cleansed us from sin and we “put on the new man” in the image of Christ (Col 3, 10). And it happens each time we partake in the Eucharist and enter into Communion with Christ to obey his commandment to love Him as he loved us. If we receive Holy Communion without being sincerely ready to wash each other’s feet, he said, we do not acknowledge the Lord’s Body, since “Jesus’ service is to give of himself totally.”
On Good Friday, he continued, “we will meditate on the mystery of Christ’s death and we will adore the Cross. By his sacrifice, sin has been overcome through love, an immense love which we are called to live and transmit.”
During the last moments of his life, “before handing over the spirit,” Jesus said: “It is finished” (John 19, 30).
What is the meaning of this phrase, the Pope asked? “It means that the work of salvation is accomplished, that all of the Scriptures are fulfilled in the love of Christ, the Immolated Lamb. Jesus, by his Sacrifice, has transformed the greatest iniquity into the greatest love.”
The Pope then pointed to the men and women who, throughour the centuries, have borne witness by their lives to this perfect love, and he recalled especially the heroic witness of Don Antonio Santoro, “a priest of the Diocese of Rome and missionary in Turkey.”
“Just days before being assassinated in Trebizond, he wrote: ‘I am here to live amongst the people and to allow Jesus to be here lending him my flesh (…) One becomes capable of salvation only when offering one’s flesh. The evils of the world must be carried and shared, one must allow them be absorbed into one’s flesh, as Jesus did.’”
Pope Francis called Don Santoro is a man of our time, adding that there are many other true martyrs today “who offer their lives with Jesus in order to confess their faith.”
“How beautiful it will be,” the Pope said, “if at the end of our lives, with all of our errors and our sins as well as our works of charity and our love for our neighbor, we will be able to say: ‘it is finished’. Not with the perfection with which Jesus said it, but knowing that we did what we could.”
He added: “Adoring the Cross, gazing upon Jesus, let us think about love, about service, about our life, about the Christian martyrs. It will also do us good to think about the end of our life. None of us knows when this will occur, but we can ask for the grace to be able to say: ‘Father, I did what I could. It is finished.’”
Turning to Holy Saturday, Pope Francis explained we will contemplate Jesus’ lying in the tomb, and with Mary, the Church will keep alive the flame of faith, hoping against every hope in Christ’s Resurrection.