Good Friday

     Today, we are brought face to face with the crucifix. As we stare at Jesus hanging on the cross, we recall that as disciples, as followers of Jesus, each of us must also take up our cross and follow Him.[1] In telling His followers to take up their cross and follow Him, Jesus invites us to accept the suffering that comes our way, trusting that “God makes use of evil in such a superb way and with such skill that the result is better than if there had never been evil.”[2] It is suffering that helps us grow in holiness by teaching us charity, compassion and patience. This pandemic that keeps us from gathering today, affords us the opportunity to be more like Christ, to become holier. The coronavirus has demonstrated how little control we actually have. It has reminded us that its not a question of if we will have to join Christ on the cross, but rather, the only question is what will our attitude towards the cross be.

     The gospel account of Jesus’ crucifixion shows us that there are only three possible attitudes towards the cross. Like those who stood at the foot of the cross and said “let the Messiah, the king of Israel come down from the cross that we may believe,”[3] each of us can be tempted to approach the cross with distain. Can’t we be tempted to demand that Christ prove His love for us, by removing the suffering around us and showering us with worldly success, rather than allowing ourselves to follow St. Paul’s exhortation to be crucified with Christ?[4] If we are sparred the mocking of the cross, we can also be tempted to be like those who sat at the foot of the cross and cast lots for Jesus’ clothes,[5] and become distracted spectators of the cross. The coronavirus has forced us to put aside many of the distractions in our life to focus on what is important. Have you realized how easy it can be for us to allow our faith to be a nice thought or a cultural tradition that we engage in every now and then but fail to take seriously? Friends, if we truly believe that God suffered His most painful passion as an act of pure love for us and rose from the dead to save us, our faith cannot be regulated to the sidelines of our life. We simply cannot accept the truth of the crucifixion and not allow it to radically change our lives. For the cross is a reminder that our sufferings are united to Christ and that through the cross we will be healed. So, as we venerate the cross from afar we pray that all people will be drawn to it in hope and consolation.

      The only proper attitude to the cross is one of empathy. This is the attitude we see modeled by the blessed Virgin Mary, the women of the cross and St. John, who through their prayerful witness at the cross united their pain and sufferings to the suffering of Christ on the cross. The coronavirus has put Calvary before us. Do we run to the cross when the going gets tough or do we flee? “Calvary is the highest point in the world, from which we can see everything with new eyes, the eyes of faith, love and martyrdom, the eyes of Christ.”[6] Today we are invited to step back and view the recent struggles brought on by the coronavirus from the view of the cross, through the lens of faith. For you see, embracing the cross means finding the courage to embrace the hardships of the present time, to embrace the Lord in order to embrace hope. For that is the strength of faith which frees us from all anxiety and fear.

     Friends, “the cross stands at the point of intersection between historical human interaction and the divine plan of salvation.”[7] “Through the cross Jesus reunited us with God; he destroyed the barrier that separated us from one another and he overcame the obstacles that closed off the road to eternal happiness.”[8] This year, the coronavirus, while it has taken much away from us, affords us the opportunity to face the cross. This year, we simply cannot avoid the cross, but we can choose how to approach it. So, as you see Jesus hanging on the cross what is your attitude towards the cross? Will we be like those who mocked Jesus hanging on the cross? Will be like those who cast lots for Jesus’ clothes and try to pretend the cross isn’t a reality or will we be like Mary, the women of the cross, and St. John by uniting ourselves to Christ on the cross. The coronavirus can take everything from us, but the cross remains standing. The only question to ponder today is if we will join Christ on the cross by uniting our suffering to His so that in dying with Him, we might also rise with Him on Easter Sunday.

[1] Lk 9:23

[2] Wilfrid Stinssen. Into Your Hands, Father Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2011. Pg. 15

[3] Mk 15:32

[4] Gal 2:19

[5] Mt 27:36

[6] Robert Cardinal Sarah. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Dias San Francisco: Ignatius (2015). Pgs 25 – 26

[7] Christoph Cardinal Schonborn. God Sent His Son: A Contemporary Christology. San Francisco: Ignatius (2010). Pg. 301

[8] Robert Cardinal Sarah. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise with Nicolas Dias San Francisco: Ignatius (2017). Pg 160

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