Q: Archbishop J, the Paschal mystery: how does it relate to family life?
This weekend, beginning with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, we solemnly celebrate the most profound mystery in the Catholic tradition—the Paschal mystery.
Wrapped up in this mystery are four interrelated mysteries of Jesus’ salvation of humanity—His life, death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven. This is the core of the Christian faith.
As St Paul says: “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:16–17).
As Catholics, we need to understand and live the Paschal mystery every day of our lives. It is what distinguishes us from those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. This is not just a formula; it is a living mystery in which we are invited to participate. It is the reason for our living in Christ, the reason for submitting to Christ and His Gospel. The Paschal mystery should order every aspect of the life of the disciple. It should speak in and through our daily living.
A mystery is not something to be understood with our minds; it has to be entered into with our whole selves—body, mind, soul, spirit. It informs all aspects or dimensions of our life.
After 2000 years, I sometimes believe we have only just scratched the surface of the Paschal mystery: the journey has only just begun.
The Paschal mystery lived
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life” (654).
This is vital for family life. A family that is ‘in Christ’ has been redeemed from sin by the costly price of Christ’s sacrifice of His life. Thus, by meditating on the life, suffering and death of Christ, the family should begin to see a pattern for their living and their forgiving and for their life in Christ.
The modern world makes several great mistakes about love. First, we believe love is a feeling, so we believe people can fall in and out of love. Feelings are either nouns or adjectives, but love is a verb. It is an action word. It is something that one does. This is best demonstrated this week. Do you think Christ felt like being beaten and spat upon and rejected and ridiculed? NO! But He accepted it all.
And, in His actions, we see laid bare the true nature of love. It is through this love that we have been brought to salvation. It is through this love we begin to understand that the true logic of the world is love.
The nature of Love
In his first letter, St John says: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 Jn 4:7–9).
To read Jesus’ Passion through the lens of love is to begin to understand the high call of family life. What is the nature of our love for each other? How much tolerance do we have? Are our actions ones of love that imitate Jesus, or of hurt and selfishness and self-protection—the actions that crucified Him? Now we have a new way of evaluating our actions in the family.
To enter into the Paschal mystery, is to choose the way of love at every turn. By contemplating Jesus’ actions and choices in the Passion, we begin to see ours very differently.
I am not speaking here about domestic abuse or violence in the family. That is a separate matter which can never be accepted. It is not an action for the good of the spouses. What I am speaking to is the daily sacrifices that family call us to, and whether we are ready to die to the self or not.
To enter into the Passion of Christ is to raise the bar on love. It is to act in the way of humble sacrifice. It is to die to the self a thousand times a day, so others may have life. It is to choose—time and time again—to do the loving thing when the feelings tug us in the opposite direction.
So, you have had a hard day at work, you reach home and there is utter chaos—the usual spat between the children. What does love require?
Your spouse has forgotten again to go to the grocery on the way home. What does love require?
Your spouse or parent comes home, clearly in a bad mood, you could escalate it or calm it down. What does love require?
Your child has been on his or her device for several hours, and you know if you were to speak again it will lead to an eruption and a bad mood. What does love require?
Family life gives countless opportunities every day for dying to self. This is the beginning of the Paschal mystery.
As the evangelist St John says: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
Spousal love is about dying to oneself. This is not morbid, or dark; it is the way to fullness of life. By each of us seeking to save his or her life, we are losing a generation. We are destroying families and the children.
I want to invite all families during this Paschal mystery to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s saving love. Let it guide your family and be for you a way to Easter and new life.
Love is a verb; it is an action word. It is something we are called to do for the sake of the other.
Look at your reactions to members of your family and evaluate whether they are loving actions. Ask the risen Christ to help you to express concrete actions of love.