March 25, 2016: Good Friday
For more than twenty centuries, the Church has gathered on this day that we call Good Friday to remember and re-live the events of the final stage of the earthly journey of the Son of God who went out, carrying his cross to the place called Golgotha. We are here because we are convinced that the Way of the Cross of the Son of God was not simply a journey to the place of execution. We believe that every step of the Condemned Christ, every action and every word, as well as everything felt and done by those who took part in his passion, continue to speak to us.
Several months after my ordination to priesthood, I was in Jerusalem, celebrating mass inside the basilica at the Garden of Gethsemane. The church was dimly lit, and all I could hear was hushed murmuring of pilgrims praying with their hands on a large rock--traditionally the place where Jesus spent the night praying in agony before his arrest. The altar of sacrifice was immediately behind the rock. As I grasped the chalice with both hands to elevate it during the Eucharistic prayer, a scripture passage came to mind -- the prayer that Jesus said in agony at the Garden, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) And another passage came to mind where Jesus asked James and John, "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" (Matt 20:22)
As we re-live the Good Friday of Our Lord, we also are asked whether we are willing to drink the cup of Our Lord. I know there are many of you here who are going through a particularly difficult time right now, with loss, illness and family issues. What does it mean to have a part in the Cross of Christ? It means to experience, in the Holy Spirit, the love hidden within the Cross of Christ. It means to recognize, in the light of this love, our own cross. It means to take up that cross once more and, strengthened by this love, to continue our journey. On this journey through life, we are called to imitate the one who endured the cross.
As we reflect on the events of Calvary particularly when the body of Jesus was taken down from the Cross and laid in his Mother's arms, in our mind's eye we glimpse again the moment when Blessed Mother accepted the message brought by the angel Gabriel. The had said, "And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus; the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:31-33). In response to Gabriel, Blessed Mother replied simply: "Let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38);Blessed Mother expressed these words again in the silence of her heart as she stood at Calvary, and as she held the body of her son in her arms. Inseparable from the mystery of the Incarnation is the extraordinary promise spoken of by Simeon during the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: "And a sword will pierce through your heart, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:35).
The crosses that we carry only make sense when we unite them to the cross of Our Lord on Calvary. In some way, we all stand before the cross on Calvary. There we learn the lesson on how Jesus carried and embraced our crosses with great love. There at Calvary, Blessed Mother is standing with us. She knows what’s weighing in our hearts, especially the burden of the suffering that’s overwhelming us. It is all too natural for us to say, “Father, take this suffering away from me.” Yet, Blessed Mother’s presence at Calvary and her presence by our side remind us to imitate her trust in the Father, “Let it be to me according to your word.”