With the tabernacles empty, several times today, I have sat down to pray with a crucifix and scriptures. Such prayer on Good Friday has been equally fruitful as praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament the other days of the year.
For the sake of brevity, I will not go into much elaboration, as I wish to simply review several correlations in today’s Readings which highlight the significance of this salvation event.
Isaiah says of the suffering servant: “so marred was his look beyond human semblance / and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man.” Our attention should not be drawn so much to the events of scourging as to the true identity of the suffering servant.
Likewise, the Passion accounts speak about the core issue of the identity of Jesus as the Christ, as the Son of God.
Listen again to these select passages of the Passion Narrative:
“’Whom are you looking for?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus the Nazorean.’ (human identity) Jesus answered: ‘I AM.’” (Divine identity)
“Are you the King of the Jews?” (a worldly title)
“My Kingdom does not belong to this world.” (Heavenly association)
“Then you are a King.” (indeed!)
“Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
“Not this one but Barabbas!” (which as we know, is Hebrew for Son of the Father!)
“Behold the man.”
“He made himself the Son of God.”
“Where are you from?”
“You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.”
“Pilate … brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called the Stone Pavement.” (Indeed, Jesus who is alone capable of judgment [further evidence of his true identity as God] did not come to condemn, but rather to give his life as a ransom for ours.)
Finally, I wish to reflect upon the words of Psalm 22, which other passion accounts place on the lips of Jesus from the cross.
“My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22)
In a very human way, these words are haunting. And yet, there is something comforting for us in knowing that even Jesus experienced a sense of God’s absence, even at the highest moment of fulfilling the Father’s will. Jesus knew in his heart that the Father was faithful and that his love was unquestionable, and yet he experienced what we often experience amid our own human suffering.
The lessons of this Good Friday teach us to make the same Act of Faith in our times of darkness that just as the Father was present to Jesus in his aloneness in fulfilling the Father’s will, Jesus is present to us and knows what we are experiencing in our times of trial. Part of the lesson here for us is to see in Jesus’ experience of abandonment that we too, may experience a seeming ‘withdrawal of God’ from us, even now we are struggling to accomplish God’s will in our lives; especially at the time when we know we need God the most!
Likewise, we as Jesus are to make an Act of Love in associating our misery with the Man of Sorrows. If the Passion and Death of Jesus reveal anything to us, it is the depths of his love for the Father and for each of us as God’s beloved children. When we find it difficult to love, challenging to remain faithful to the will of God and the promises we have made, this is precisely when we are to keep on loving with all the love of our hearts, and keep on trusting in God’s love for us.
When we feel abandoned by God, we are to make An Act of Hope that God is most active in our moments of desolation. When we are drained, and beaten because of the demands of the Gospel, it is only by God’s grace that we are capable of accomplishing anything that is good in the eyes of heaven and for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
Finally, let us bring the two points of Jesus’s true identity and his suffering together and apply them to our need. Notice that it was only on the cross that Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God is revealed in all its fullness. Here is my point:
Earlier this week, a wise woman I know shared something with me about how God works in the midst of our suffering. Here is what she wrote:
My Jesuit uncle had many words of wisdom but one of the most significant for my life was his understanding of deepening relationship with God. That is, he said there are basically four stages: acquaintanceship, friendship, intimacy (where we all think we want to be) and identification. The deepest of all—identification—is most readily attained in suffering. The paradox: allowing Jesus to suffer in us—truly “entering into” the Paschal Mystery is how we find the true Joy of the Resurrection. Our small suffering becomes powerfully redemptive intercession for the sanctification of the world. I never fully understood what it means to “take up our cross” and “offer it up” until he explained St. Paul’s experiences with this understanding of depth of relationship with God.
So, my dear friends, we are in very good company when we suffer, because it is then that we are being closely identified with Christ. Surely, we do not need to go in search of suffering, but when it comes our way, we can only pray for the grace to welcome Christ and allow him to accompany us in our way of the cross. He is with us – as the great I AM, with healing, mercy and love.
We adore you O Christ, and we bless you …
Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.