April 14, 2017: Good Friday A
Click to hear Audio Homily
A nurse working on the oncology floor of a hospital was having a difficult afternoon with a family. It wasn’t the fault of the family or the nurse. There was just nothing that the doctors, the nurses, nor the family could do for a man in his 30’s with cancer who took a turn for the worse that afternoon. His brother was ranting and raving with all his angst and his frustration. “Why aren’t they doing something else? Why isn’t this medication working? Why is God letting him die?” The young man’s mother spoke, “Son, don’t question God. We aren’t supposed to do that.” Have we not had similar moments in our lives when we questioned God over a situation that we could not control?
Even Jesus cried out aloud to God on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” His mother, Mary, stood below the Cross in agony not able to relieve her Son of any suffering. Blessed Mother accepted and trusted not knowing why this suffering had to happen. When Blessed Mother said her fiat “Let it be done to me according to thy word,” at the greeting of Archangel Gabriel, she did not know the great suffering her Son would endure. She pondered in her heart over the years the words of her young son when he was found in the temple after being lost for 3 days, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” At Calvary, she put her faith in the God who created her and sustained her.
(Photo on the right: Basilica of the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary, Wadowice, Poland. Church where St. John Paul II was baptized)
For Jesus, his cry from the Cross was not a cry of despair nor resentment. He was reciting a prayer from Psalm 22 that he had prayed since he was a child. Psalm 22 begins with, “My God why have you abandoned me.” The later lines of the same psalm, however, are filled with trust, “For [God] has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out...All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before him. For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.”
From the very beginning of his Passion, Jesus embraced every moment and propelled the drama forward: in the garden, where he is arrested; at his interrogation by the Temple officials; in the unjust proceeding before Pilate; in addressing his mother and his friend, John, from the Cross; in declaring his mission finished and giving over his spirit. In all those moments, Jesus did not despair. He was strengthened by the awareness of his Father’s love for him and Blessed Mother’s constant prayer for him.
The Calvary that we experience in life should not be an occasion of despair for us. As Blessed Mother stood at Calvary, she did not despair. Her thoughts, as she stood by her Son crucified on the Cross, did not dwell on her own ability or inability to control the situation. Rather, her thoughts were wholly on her Son. She does not stage a revolt either against God, who allows these things to happen, or against mankind, who tortured and killed her Son. Just as her Son embraced the Cross, she embraced her place next to her Son, echoing her consent of distant past, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Her consent was a heart-to-heart union with her Son’s own consent in the Garden of Gethsemane, "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" Each time we pray the Creed and receive Eucharist, we also give this assent to God, “Amen...so be it.” In that moment of union with Jesus who gave up his life for us, we also give our whole self to him, full of hope and trust that the Father will bring forth resurrection of life even amidst the darkest moments of our lives.