Happy Easter to you all. I say that to you here on the third Sunday of Easter to remind you that there are 50 days of Easter. Thus the church calendar gives us more days in the season of Easter than it did in the season of Lent. We spent 40 days of Lenten discipline preparing for the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter resurrection. And we are given 50 days — so 10 more — to unpack that glorious event.
So let’s go back and take a moment to think about those three days and what they might mean for us three weeks later. If you took up Father Neil’s invitation to participate in the liturgies of the Triduum, then you were there for the Mass on Holy Thursday. And from the gospel that night we read about how our Lord gave his disciples a mandate to serve, and he gave them the instruction on how to celebrate the memorial of his sacrifice. So, in many ways, the night of Holy Thursday was a very compressed seminary to prepare his apostles for their priesthood.
Good Friday was the day of the sacrifice for which they had been prepared the night before. On the Cross on Good Friday, Christ was both the priest making the sacrificial offering and the victim being offered in the sacrifice. And the sacrifice was made to save us from the sentence of eternal death that we inherited from Adam and Eve when they turned away from their heavenly father and chose to follow Satan.
Jesus hanging on the cross, is still an observant Jew. He is reciting the 22nd Psalm; the Son of David is reciting a Psalm of David as his life slowly slips away. The Psalms were the hymn book and the prayer book at the time of Jesus. And so Jesus is praying to his God the prayers of the persecuted, the one suffering at the hands of others.
Jesus is the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah. Good Friday is a day of suffering. After the Agony in the Garden, after the Scourging at the Pillar, after the Crowning of Thorns, Jesus suffers on the Cross for three hours so that we can be freed from the chains of death through his sacrifice.
He suffers so we know that our suffering is not in vain. However much we suffer, Jesus has suffered even more, and he suffers our suffering with us. He gives us a model of suffering that honors the pain but also promises a victorious end to the pain.
Psalm 22 does not dismiss the suffering that we endure. The Psalm speaks to that sense of frustration we feel when we are suffering, for in our hearts we seem to know that suffering is an injustice of some sort. It’s not fair, it’s not right. Jesus knows. Jesus understands because he suffered in exactly the same way. He is not nailed to the Cross because of anything he did; he’s there because of our sins. He’s dying for our sins because he loves us.