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04/10/20 Good Friday - Fr. Reggie

As we contemplate Our Lord crucified today, we behold a tragedy, the tragedy of an innocent man publicly executed. Jesus’ only “crime” was to identify himself as the Messiah, and that’s who he was; he did so to the Sanhedrin, so they decided to have him killed, and he did so to Pilate, who sentenced him to death.

His response leaves us as dumbstruck and confounded as the kings of the world mentioned in today’s First Reading: Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant is a description of Christ raised on the Cross: “…my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted…so marred was his look beyond human semblance…so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless…” He takes the punishments we deserve upon himself: “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins” He doesn’t just say, “never mind, I forgive you”; he hands himself over to evil men to be tortured and executed. He teaches us how horrible the effects of sin are, not just to us, but to him, and that our sins have consequences. Yet Isaiah also reminds us that by his wounds we are healed. His suffering is not in vain. He has won pardon for our sins.

Today’s Second Reading reminds us that through this suffering Christ made salvation possible for us. Our Lord assumed nature to redeem us, but also to experience everything we experience as human beings except for sin. When tragedy strikes us, we can rail against God, but Christ on the Cross reminds us that he is not ignorant to our sufferings because he himself has suffered. We know everything he has endured for us, therefore we know that when we’re truly sorry for what we’ve done he’ll grant us his mercy. We just have to ask. As Pope Francis reminds us, God doesn’t tire of forgiving us; we get tired of asking for his forgiveness.

As today’s Gospel reminds us, Jesus had his ID card hanging right over his head: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” It was meant as mockery, but it was the truth, the truth to which he had testified all along. If the execution of a guilty man doesn’t give us remorse (and it should, since it presents a failure of all society, not just the criminal), the execution of an innocent man should. This tragedy is even more profound when we gaze upon the Crucified One and remember that we should have been on that Cross instead of him. An innocent man is dying, brutalized on the Cross, for us. Adam and Eve’s Fall and our sins incurred the death penalty. After all, God had given us and done for us, we’ve repaid him by turning our backs on him, again and again. Even in his last words, Jesus asks the Father to forgive us for our ignorance. Today is a day not to dwell on the tragedy we inflicted on the good God who came to save us, but the love with which he did. Let’s die to sin and turn back to God and back to love.

An old Romanian legend tells of a group of soldiers who were lost one winter's night in a blinding snowstorm. They did not know where to turn, so they decided to camp for the night. But the bitter cold made their tiny fire almost useless. There was no wood, no tress, no fences. They knew they would freeze to death if they didn't find something to burn. One of them volunteered to forage for fuel. He wandered off and was soon hidden in the swirling snow. He stumbled into a graveyard and finally found a wooden cross. Their extreme need prompted him to take it; reverence told him not to. At last he dragged it into the huddled group. The leader spoke: "We can't burn a cross, no matter how much we need the heat." One by one the men dropped off to sleep, all except the youth who had found the wooden cross. As in a daze, he sat out the long hours of the night. Suddenly he saw a light, faint and weak. It was moving - toward him. At last he made out a figure: it was Jesus himself carrying a large cross. He walked right up and laid his cross on the dying embers of the fire. The jumping flames and the burning heat awakened the others. The leader demanded who had put the wooden cross on the fire, but the youth who had seen Christ do it was kneeling in the snow, staring into the darkness, as if he still saw someone.

When we put our faith in the meaning Christ wants to give to the cross, as those soldiers did by treating it reverently, it becomes a blazing fire of wisdom and love, melting and overcoming all the cold indifference and self-centeredness that deadens our hearts. This afternoon Jesus is on the Cross. If anyone has hurt me, if I think anyone owes me something, if I think anyone has done me wrong, Our Lord on the Cross is ready to pay that debt in full. If I have hurt anyone, if I owe anyone anything, if I think I have done something wrong to someone, Our Lord on the Cross is ready to help me pay that debt. Jesus is on the Cross today to reconcile us with Our Heavenly Father and with each other. Let’s be reconciled to God by reconciling today with anyone who owes us and with anyone to whom we are indebted. 

 

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