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March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Blessed Good Friday,

Lord, by the suffering of Christ, Your Son,
You have saved us all from the death we inherited from sinful Adam.
By the law of nature we have borne the likeness of His manhood;
may the sanctifying power of grace
help us to put on the likeness of our Lord in Heaven,
Who lives and reigns, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Readings:
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)

Behold the power of God.

“All we, like sheep, had gone astray, each following his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). The slightest discomfort, inconvenience or disapproval was enough to send us flying. We didn’t even have strength of numbers, scattered as we were.

Our High Priest knows our weakness. He was tempted in the very same ways we are (see Hebrews 4:15), in the same flesh.

Yet where the sheep scatter, the Lamb stands firm. “Though He was harshly treated, He submitted and opened not His mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, He was silent and opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

He crosses the Kidron Valley, to “drink from the brook of His Passion” (Alcuin, found in the Catena Aurea).

“He shall drink from the stream by the wayside, and therefore He shall lift up His head” (Psalm 110:7).

This is the same Lord of Whom God had said, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). Our High Priest is preparing the sacrifice.

He goes into the Garden, the original place of temptation (see John 18:1, Genesis 3:1), confronting the same serpent under a different guise. He doesn’t allow the enemy to approach His Bride (the Church, embodied in His disciples), as the first Adam did, but rather steps forward. “Who is it that you want?…If I AM the one you want, let these men go” (John 18:4, 8). The enemy, leashed now as he’s always been, must obey. He goes as far as the Lamb allows, and not a step further.

The Lamb shields His Bride. She–we–had gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). The accuser (the literal meaning of “devil”) has a rightful claim on Her. The Lamb, like Hosea, pays the price to buy back His beloved prostitute (Hosea 3:1-2). He uses His power to deliver Himself over to the bondage, the degradation, the torture and the death that Her sins deserve.

In doing so, He strips away Her illusions. She thought she loved Him when she tried to make Him King for His miracles (John 6:18). He would not permit it. She was trying to kiss His Head in honor while trampling His feet with sin (see St. Augustine, Epist. ad Parthos). She must see the wounds She was creating, see them displayed in all their brutality upon the standard of the cross. She must witness, by contrast, the Love that would rather face unspeakable torture than abandon the beloved to evil.

There is no greater Love than this (John 15:13).

There is no greater power than this, nothing more worthy of our adoration.

This is His glory (see Philippians 2:9-11, Galatians 6:14). The Lamb gathers His scattered sheep into one body around this cross (see Ephesians 2:13-15).

“It is finished” (John 19:30). His work is done. Night falls on the sixth day (see Genesis 1:27-31, John 19:31). He takes His Sabbath rest in the heart of the earth.

Let us join Him there, shaking off the slavery of sin (see John 8:31) that has so deprived us of His holy rest…

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