In any sport winning a championship or the grand final is the ultimate experience. You see it in the faces of the players of the winning team: the huge smiles of satisfaction, the wide eyes of sheer joy. You see it in their body language: the arms raised with clenched fists as a sign of victory; even though exhausted, they find the energy to run, to jump and to embrace each other. You hear it especially in the loud shout of victory as the siren or the whistle signals the end of the game. If you have been a member of a team that won a championship or a grand final you know exactly what I mean. The experience is unbelievable and unforgettable.
This experience is only a glimpse of what happens at Easter. For us Christians, Easter is the greatest victory of them all. During his life Jesus won many victories over evil, pain, suffering and diseases. But then there was Good Friday, when everything that Jesus had said and done seemed to come to an end. If the story of Jesus had finished at this point it would have been a tragic defeat. But Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday. At the very moment when everything seems to have been lost, Jesus’ resurrection becomes the greatest victory.
It is a victory for Jesus but, as the captain-coach of the team, he wants to share this victory with you and with all his friends and followers. And remember that Jesus’ victory is not just a game. Jesus has become the winner in the greatest game of all. It’s the game of life, the life we live here on earth and the life we are called live forever in Heaven. In this game Jesus wants you to be a member of his team. He doesn’t just invite you. Because of his death and resurrection, he guarantees you that you will be in the winning team.
What kind of victory does Jesus guarantee? He guarantees you that in your life you too can share in his victory: the victory of love over hatred; healing over hurt; forgiveness over revenge; compassion over selfishness; goodness over evil; life over death. He guarantees you that you will live this life with a sense of purpose and fulfilment and then, after death, you will live forever with him in Heaven.
You accepted membership of his team through baptism and confirmation. But as you know, every member of the team needs to contribute. Every member of the team has a role to play. Every member of the team must learn how to play his or her role as a team player. As coaches often tell their players: “A champion team will always beat a team of champions.”
How can you become a team player? The only way is for you to understand the plan and the strategies he has for you and for the whole team. This can only happen if you listen very carefully to Jesus, your captain-coach. First of all, you must take time to listen to him. In other words, you need to spend some time in prayer and reflection. This is the time you ask questions of your captain-coach. It is also a time to listen to Jesus’ ideas and plan for you. During these one-to-one times with your captain-coach, he will help you to identify your strengths and then use them to benefit the whole team. He will also help you to identify your limitations and your weaknesses. It’s OK. Don’t be frightened. He will be there beside you to support you and, if you make a mistake, he will get you through and even cover for you.
The three days of Easter, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, are an intense three-day training camp for all the members of Jesus’ team. Imagine you have received an invitation to join in this training camp. It’s the time when you learn the plan and the strategies necessary to win.
It's also called Maundy Thursday. It’s the day on which Jesus calls you and his team together for a meal. As we gather around the table with Jesus, you will learn how you and the whole team bond with your captain-coach. Then we will eat together because all the members of the team need strength and energy. But this is no ordinary food and nourishment. Jesus gives us his Body and his Blood as our spiritual food and nourishment. This is the food that guarantees us victory. Then the captain-coach will show you and the team the strategies and the tactics necessary for victory. Jesus doesn’t do too much talking. He walks the talk. And so he gets up from the table and washes your feet and the feet of all his team. If you ask him why he is doing this, he will tell you that victory can only be achieved if you put the team first. The team must always come first. This is the plan. This is the strategy for victory.
This is the toughest time of all. Jesus, the captain-coach, is down and out. But even as he dies he is reminding you that in this team you have to give until it hurts. You have to give to the end. Jesus dies doing what he has been asked to do by the Father. Jesus dies for his team. As Jesus dies he is telling you that you must never give up or lose hope. Even in your darkest moment, remember you must always do what’s best for the team.
It’s the night when what seems to be a certain defeat, becomes the sweetest victory of them all: a victory celebrated in four parts.
The first celebration of victory is celebrated around the fire. Out of darkness comes the spark of new life, the beginning of new hope. Then with lights raised high you move to our club house, the church, where we hear the Church sings Jesus’ victory song: “Rejoice, let mother Church rejoice … Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.”
Then we are ready to begin the second victory celebration. The history of our Christian ‘club’ will be proclaimed and acclaimed. It is a history that goes back to the beginning of creation and covers many great victories over many centuries, up to the victory celebrated by the current team, culminating in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The third part of the victory celebration is the welcoming of new members through the sacraments of initiation. They are the new recruits. They have gone through a long and tough preparation and they are now ready to become full members of the team. These new recruits are the guarantee and the proof that Jesus is still with his team. The Church is a 2,000-year-old team but it remains young and strong because it constantly invites, prepares and initiates new players into the team.
Finally, the moment comes for the fourth celebration of victory. You gather again around the table for food and nourishment, the body and blood of Christ. It is here around this table that you continue to grow stronger. It is here around this table that you deepen the bond with Jesus, your captain-coach and with all the members of Jesus’ team. It is here around this table that you remember Jesus’ plan for you and for the team. From this table Jesus then sends you out to tell your friends of the great victory that Jesus has guaranteed you through his death and resurrection. From this table you are sent out to invite your friends to become part of Jesus’ team. From this table you are given the courage and strength to show your friends how they too can learn to play their unique and important role in Jesus’ winning team.
You are very privileged and honoured to have received an invitation from Jesus, your captain-coach to be a part of his three-day training camp. It’s the best offer you will ever have. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Be a part of Jesus’ winning team. Don’t miss out. Be there!
This article originally appeared on the Udisciple website.
Melbourne Catholic13 April 2022