There was a jar filled with common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips. When Jesus took the wine, he said: “It is finished.”John 19:29-30
When Jesus says it is finished, we might ask ourselves exactly what is finished? He is about to die, so is it that his life is finished? He told the disciples last night when he instituted the Lord’s Supper that this was his body and this was his blood, so is it that the institution of the Lord’s Supper is finished?
I think the answer to both of these questions is yes. But today I’d like to look back in the church year to the Annunciation and the Nativity of Our Lord. This is Good Friday, which is an odd name for this day unless we can connect it to the Annunciation and to the Nativity. For what is finished is the consequence of Adam and Eve’s decision in the Garden of Eden to turn away from the Lord and to put themselves – and us – under the dominion of the Evil One. All of salvation history as recorded in Holy Scripture is a response to that original sin. Time after time, our Heavenly Father sent prophets to call us back to the relationship that we were made for. And from time to time we were able to turn back, but we were unable to remain in that good relationship with our creator. We would return, but we wouldn’t stay.
Our Heavenly Father loves us; he loves us so much, he sent his only begotten son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by his son’s sacrifice. His birth was announced to Our Lady by God’s messenger, the Archangel Gabriel. And Our Lady responded as Adam and Eve did not: “Be it done unto me according to thy will.” Like Eve, whose name means “the mother of all,” Mary was born without an ingrained inclination to sin. Like Eve, she could freely choose to follow God’s will or to reject God’s will. Unlike Adam and Eve, Mary freely chose to follow God’s will. From such a holy body, our Lord was born on Christmas Day. The word became flesh and dwelt among us.
The Annunciation and the Nativity were the first steps in what we now understand was a holy sacrifice by a priest of the order of Melchizedek. Not a priest from the line of Aaron, but a priest from the line of Adam. Not an offering of the blood and flesh of goats and bulls, but an offering of the blood and flesh of God made man. This Jesus, whose name means “God Saves,” walked among us in a public ministry of approximately three years. In that public ministry, he showed us what a life lived according to God’s will looks like. And in the final act of that public ministry, he showed us how much God loves us, as he gave up his very life to redeem us.
Redemption is the paying off of a debt. The debt that Jesus paid off was the debt incurred by Adam and Eve on our behalf in the Garden of Eden at the Fall. That was a debt so large that no human person could possibly pay it off because the debt was owed to God. Only God could pay off that debt, but a human person needed to pay off that debt according to the laws of justice. So God agreed to humble himself and become just like us: human in every way except for sin. Then he offered himself as a sacrifice on the cross to pay that debt, to redeem us.
The debt is paid. We are freed from the life of sin and death. To remain free, we must conform ourselves to Christ. He suffered to show us that we can embrace suffering and grow in holiness through that suffering, even when nobody else will. He obeyed his Father’s will to show us that we can obey our Heavenly Father, even when nobody else does. He forgave those who schemed against him and ultimately killed him to show us that we can forgive our enemies, even when nobody else does.
In this great sacrifice, Jesus is the victim. He is the offering. He is also the priest who makes the offering on our behalf. This great sacrifice, which we remember in a very special way on this Good Friday, is recalled every time the sacrifice of the Holy Mass is offered by a priest on our behalf. We don’t have Mass on Good Friday. At the Liturgy of the Passion, we will distribute hosts that were consecrated at last night’s Mass. The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ – that he began last night in the Upper Room – is finished. Every Mass after that Good Friday is a participation in Christ’s sacrifice.
What began at the Annunciation and the Incarnation is finished on the cross at Calvary. Jesus Christ on the cross has redeemed us. The sin of Adam and Eve is wiped away. Our separation from our creator is over. It is finished.