Good Friday

As we just heard the account of Jesus’ passion and death, I couldn’t help but recall one of Jesus most fundamental teachings; “no one has greater love this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”[1] While we shouted crucify Him, Jesus humbly put His teaching into practice and laid down His life for us. Jesus shows us how to love, yet how many times do we prefer our own will and our own desires? How many times do we turn inwardly towards ourselves rather than laying down our lives for Him? Today’s celebration reminds us that the “the cross of Christ is not a theory, but a dreadful ordeal and a sign of love.”[2]

The cross that we are about to come forward to venerate is a reminder that our God became one of us and suffered a horrific death on the cross so that we might become like Him. The cross is the ultimate sign of God’s love for us. After all, God is a sufferer because he is a lover; the entire theme of the suffering God flows from that of the Loving God and always points back to it.”[3] Our participation in this liturgy reminds us that God “does not love us because we deserve to be loved, but because we need to be loved.”[4] We come then today to venerate our Lord’s cross recognizing it as the means of our salvation and we seek to unite ourselves to Him on the cross.

Today’s liturgy is a reminder to us that Good Friday is real and while many of us seek the glory of the resurrection without the passion of cross, the cross is simply unavoidable. “Everyone in the world is either on or underneath the Cross. No escape is possible. Some are on it through physical suffering or because they are identified with the suffering of others in Christ’s name sake … others are beneath it, demeaning His crucifixion, ridiculing sacrifice, or being indifferent enough to play games under its shadow.”[5] We all have to embrace the cross, but our attitude towards the cross makes all the difference. The Gospel we just participated in shows us that there are only 3 possible attitudes towards the cross; the attitudes of disdain, apathy, or empathy.

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 see and believe,”[6] it can be easy for us to approach the cross with disdain. How often do we want the creed without the cross? Don’t we at times cry out for the Lord to come down off the cross, ready to believe if it means we don’t have to embrace the cross? Can’t we be tempted at times to demand that Christ prove His divinity to us by showering us with worldly success rather than allowing ourselves to experience Christ’s divinity by following St. Paul’s exhortation to be crucified with Christ.[7] Yet the truth is “no one can have Jesus as his ‘rabbi’ without reference to the Cross.”[8]

Like those who sat around the cross and cast lots for our Lord’s garment[9] there is often a temptation to be spectators of the cross rather than follow Christ to the cross. Sadly, our lives can get so busy that we can so easily fail to put faith at the center of our lives. It can be so easy for faith to become some nice thought or a cultural tradition that we engage in every now and then but fail to take it seriously.  Friends, if we truly believe that God suffered His most painful passion as a pure act of love and rose from the dead to save us, our faith cannot be regulated to the sidelines our life. The attitude of those who cast lots for our Lord’s cloths is simply illogical. We cannot accept the truth of the crucifixion and not allow it to radically transform our lives. We cannot proclaim the truth that God died to save me and then live my life as though He never did.

The only proper attitude towards the cross is one of empathy, the attitude of sharing the feelings of the other. This is the attitude we see modeled by the Blessed Virgin, the Women of the Cross and St. John, who through their prayerful witness at the foot of the cross, united their own pains and sufferings to the suffering of Christ’s suffering on the cross. There is no doubt these holy women were looked down upon for standing at the feet of our Savior on the cross, but they were willing to stand up for the Truth even in the face of controversy.

Do we run to the cross, when the going gets tough or do we flee? Friends, “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.”[10] So then as we stand here on Calvary, what is our attitude towards the cross? Do we battle through the uneasiness and remain standing at the cross, or do we look to take the easy way out by trying to avoid the cross or by regulating it to the sidelines of our life? Our Lord offers us His cross as the means of our salvation if only we are willing to unite ourselves to it. The cross is not a curse to run from, but a witness to hope because it is from the cross that the resurrection springs forth. Will we run from the cross to the cross, or will we run through the cross to the light of the resurrection?

[1] John 15:13

[2] Robert Cardinal Sarah, God or Nothing, A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Diat.  San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2016. Pg 95.

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Behold The Pierced One. San Francisco: Ignatius. (1986). Pg 33

[4] Patrick Ahern. Maurice and Therese the Story of a Love. Image Books: New York, 1998. Pg 139.

[5] Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Those Mysterious Priests. New York: The Alba House, 2005. pg. 101

[6] Mk 15:32

[7] Gal 2:19

[8] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg 302.

[9] Mt 27:36

[10] Robert Cardinal Sarah, God or Nothing, A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Diat.  San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2016. pgs 25 – 26.

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