Scripture: 1st Reading: Is52,13-53,12; Resp. Psalm: Ps31,2,6,12-17,25; 2nd Reading: Heb4,14-16;5,7-9; Gospel: Jn18,1-19,42
Something led Him to this day. There was a plan. Disobedience was to be cancelled by obedience, sin by holiness, impurity by righteousness. There was a will, that of the Father. That will was to save humanity. It had to be fulfilled because there was no other option. The Father's love was too great to continue to permit the works of His hands perish for lack of a way out of their predicament. We led ourselves into self destruction. He led us into new life, new growth, eternal and never ending life.
Today is the commemoration of that awful, shameful, horrendous, unimaginable sacrifice. The cruelty tears the heart apart. The vilest, most cruel and most painful of all Roman tortures were visited on His mortal body. He was scourged and punished in a way that has continued to surprise anyone how He survived it for so long.
His flesh ripped out of His body, the beard came off with flesh, terrible nails were nailed to His wrists and legs, a horrific crown made with live thorns was slammed on His head, His garments were removed and He was exposed stark naked, He was tied to a pillar and terribly scourged by Roman soldiers who competed with themselves about who could inflict the greatest pain. He lost blood, water, everything in His body. The entire blood drained out completely.
He carried that awful, heavy cross, the symbol of shame. This was in spite of the destruction of His body through the horrendous lacerations of the Roman soldiers at His scourging. They mocked and derided Him. The crowd that sang hosanna today cried out crucify Him. His disciples abandoned Him. His Father abandoned Him. He was alone, all alone.
For over three hours, He hung on that cross of shame. For even a strong man, after all the tortures He had received, would not have survived on that cross for an hour. But He was on that cross for close to six hours. He still had time to forgive those who killed Him. He had time to entrust His mother to the Church.
He thirsted. Vinegar was given Him. He cried out "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani" and they said He was calling on Elijah. When at last His humanity could take no more, He gave a loud cry: "Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit." He breathed His last and died.
Love led Him to this hour. Isaiah had prophesied in the fourth servant song about Him: He grew up, was despised, rejected, oppressed, struck for the people's transgressions, slaughtered like a lamb. He bore our griefs, sins and iniquities. Our chastisement was laid upon Him. He healed us by His stripes. So, on this day, in spite of the cruelty, good came out of evil.
He became our High Priest as a result of today's bloody sacrifice. He offered Himself as a holocaust to be wholly consumed. He obeyed through what He suffered and became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. This is the story of Good Friday. Are we in the story?
Are we any of the characters in this drama? Are we ready to nail Him to the cross once again by lives of sin? Are we obedient to His law of love? Do we love what He loved and turn our backs to what He forbids? Do we seek Him with sincere hearts?
We must not be ashamed of the cross. According to St. Augustine, we must have the greatest boast in it. St. Paul boasted of it all his life. The martyrs looked at it and felt their sacrifice too little. Saints and confessors look at it for daily inspiration. Let us look at the cross with pride. Let us thank Him who died on it for us.
Let us pray: "O God, who by the Passion of Christ your Son, our Lord, abolished the death inherited from ancient sin by every succeeding generation, grant that just as, being conformed to Him, we have borne by the law of nature the image of the man of earth, so by the sanctification of grace we may bear the image of the Man of heaven." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.