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Good Friday

April 6, 2007

Blessed Good Friday!

Isaiah 52:13- 53:12 (God laid our guilt upon Christ)
Psalm 31:1-25 “Father, I put my life in your hands”
Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 (Jesus, our high priest, knows our weakness
and pleads for us)
+John 18:1-19:42 (the Passion)

“Who would believe what we have heard?” (Isaiah 53:1)

Who would believe that One who thrived in the perfect bliss of heaven
would freely choose to go into exile here on earth, where there is so
much suffering, sorrow, and destruction? Who would believe that God,
exquisitely perfect, stunningly beautiful, would allow us to mutilate
Him, to make of Him an unrecognizable horror? Who would
believe that the One who overflows with the absolute perfection
of happiness would empty Himself, would expose His Sacred Heart
to be pierced for our offenses and crushed for our sins? Who would
believe that He won precisely by surrendering every power and advantage
at His disposal?

We say we believe. Of course we do. God has revealed it. He can
neither deceive nor be deceived. It has to be true. But then the
weight of our own cross presses hard on our shoulder. Injustice and
sorrow threaten what little beauty, what little happiness we have, and
we marshal every power at our disposal to expel them. We lose.

Oh, maybe we get what we think we want. Maybe we feel triumphant.
But we haven’t put our faith into practise. We’ve demonstrated that our
faith is dead (see James 3:26). Deep in our souls, the image of God has
been distorted. Our ability to lay down our lives in self-sacrificial
love, in His image, suffers. So does our receptivity to love.

So what does it take to breathe eternal life into our dead faith? The
short answer is sacrificial love, which is modeled for us so graphically
today. Jesus demonstrates that power is not given to us for our own
benefit. It’s for the benefit of others, and particularly for the
benefit of those who increase the weight of our cross.

As we resume our Triduum liturgy today, as we jostle our way through the
crowd to the Place of the Skull and kneel at the foot of the cross, let
us study carefully the lessons we will need to put into practise in our
own lives. Jesus filled torture with love. How did He do that? How
can I, empowered by His grace, do the same in my own life? We don’t
have to limit ourselves to observation. Our great high priest
sympathizes with our weakness and personally invites us to approach Him
in confidence for the help we need (Hebrews 4:15-16) to do as He has

We rejoin Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He led us last night.
The stillness of the night is broken by the noise of an armed mob
invading this serene sanctuary. Jesus uses His power to step forward
and meet them. We catch a glimpse of this power as those who have come
to arrest Him fall to the ground despite themselves. “At Jesus’ Name
every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth”
(Philippians 2:10). He uses His power to hand Himself over, shielding
His disciples and commanding that they be allowed to go free. “I have
not lost one of those You gave Me” (John 18:9). Jesus uses His
power to heal the wound St. Peter caused in his misguided attempt
to conquer through his own use of power. He uses His power to
keep His own emotions disciplined as He is dragged away, unjustly
accused, insulted, spat upon and beaten (which, by the way, is the
supreme example of meekness: power under control). He uses
His power to proclaim His truth to Pilate, to embrace His cross
and to drag it to the Place of the Skull. He uses His power to
provide for His mother and to entrust us to her nurturing presence.
He uses His power to express His tortuous thirst for our love, even
when all we have to offer Him is vinegar. Finally, He uses His power
to hand over His spirit, to enter into and to remain for three days in a
death that was in itself miraculous.

…if it was an astonishing thing that our Lord should die, equally it
was an astonishing thing that he should stay dead. The separation of
the body from the soul, even in us ordinary human creatures, is not a
natural state; it is an unnatural state which only takes effect because
we are sinful creatures, fallen creatures, born under a curse. It’s not
natural for a soul to be separated from its body any more than it is
natural for a fish to live out of water. And in our Lord’s case there
was no question of punishment for sin, no question of his having
inherited the taint of fallen nature. Therefore you would have expected
that as soon as he died he would come to life again. Every second
during which he stayed dead, on Good Friday and Holy Saturday and Easter
morning, was a kind of miracle; a much more remarkable miracle really
than his Resurrection. -Ronald Knox, The Creed in Slow Motion

It was all for us. Our Divine Bridegroom used His power exclusively to
lay down His life for His Bride, the Church, to purify us in the bath of
water (which flowed from His pierced side) by the power of the word, to
present us to Himself holy and immaculate, without stain or wrinkle or
anything of that sort (Ephesians 5:26-32). That’s love. That’s the
image in which we were made. It’s the only life that lasts forever.

May we submit our lives to the power of the Holy Spirit, Who is the
eternal exchange of Love within the Blessed Trinity, that He may breathe
new life into our faith and fill us with the fire of His Love.

May God bless your awe in the face of such power…

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