Sixth Word Good Friday 2022

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.

Continue reading “Sixth Word Good Friday 2022”

Good Friday Sixth Word

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

The New Covenant is now set. What began Thursday evening as a Seder meal that seemed to be interrupted just when they would have drunk from the cup of consummation is now revealed to be the holy sacrifice of the unblemished lamb, the Lamb of God. Thursday evening, Jesus told his disciples that he would not drink from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.

By accepting a bit of sour wine, Jesus is completing the new Passover sacrifice. Where the old Passover freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the new sacrifice has freed everyone from slavery to sin and death. Those who are marked with the blood of the Lamb through baptism and faith in Christ are freed to enter into the kingdom of God.

The Paschal victim is also the Paschal priest. He offered the perfect sacrifice: Himself. He, who was without sin, took upon himself all our sins. In dying upon the cross, Jesus paid the price that we cannot pay.

The Seder meal was a liturgical memorial of the Passover. The food, the readings, the vestments, and the instructions on how to sit, were all prescribed and unchanging. The new Passover meal is the holy sacrifice of the Mass. More than a memorial meal, it is a mysterious participation in the sacrifice at Calvary.

Jesus has said, “it is finished.” He has drunk from the cup of consummation. He is about to go to his Heavenly Father. He has completed his earthly ministry, and through his sacrifice, he has transformed the Cross from an instrument of torture and death to the means of obtaining eternal life.

Faithful cross! above all other,

One and only noble tree!

None in foliage, none in blossom,

None in fruit thy peer may be;

Sweet the wood and sweet the iron!

And your load, most sweet is he.

Good Friday Fourth Word

When noon came, darkness fell on the whole countryside and lasted until midafternoon. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:45-46

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.

At the same time, Jesus continues to teach his children even as he dies on the cross in front of them. In reciting this famous Psalm, Jesus is pointing to himself in the words ascribed to King David.

Verse 6 of Psalm 22 is: “But I am a worm and no man, scorned by men and despised by the people.”

And the gospel narrative tells us that was indeed what was happening on the ground below him.

Verse 7: “All who see me, mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads; ‘He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’”

Verse 14: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.”

His body is stretched, hanging from the Cross, and soon enough, water and blood will flow from his side.

Verse 16: “A company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and my feet.”

Indeed, the Precious Blood drips from the places the Roman soldiers drove spikes through his hands and his feet.

Verse 18: “They divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots.”

The verses in the first half of this psalm accurately predict the condition of the Son of Man hanging on the Cross. In the days to come, the disciples of Jesus will understand how the scriptures of their day, what we call the Old Testament, should be read as pointing to him. This psalm of David written centuries before the day of crucifixion only becomes clear after the day of crucifixion.

The tone of the Psalm pivots at verse 22: “I will tell of your name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

Verse 24: “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted.”

Jesus teaches us that suffering for the glory of God has a noble purpose and a heavenly end. This day will be remembered as Good Friday.

Verse 27: “All the ends of the Earth shall remember and turn to the Lord.”

Jesus proclaims the Good News to Jews and Gentiles alike. All the ends of the Earth are offered salvation on this day that is a Good Friday.

Verse 28: “For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.”

Jesus announces his victory over Satan, who discovers on this day, Good Friday, that his rule is merely temporary, and it will end with his destruction.

Verse 30: “Men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it.”

The song that begins with a cry of despair, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” ends in the confident trust the Son has in the Father. For Jesus knew that day would be known as Good Friday to the coming generation, for on the Cross that day he brought deliverance to a people yet unborn.

Good Friday Second Word

One of the criminals hanging in crucifixion blasphemed him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Then save yourself and us.” But the other one rebuked him: “Have you no fear of God, seeing you are under the same sentence? We deserve it, after all. We are only paying the price for what we have done, but this man has done nothing wrong.” He then said: “Jesus, remember me when you enter upon your reign.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43

Is this life that we are living all there is to life? Or is it a time of preparation for our eternal life? The two thieves on the crosses next to Jesus highlight the importance of this question. As we approach our death, our attitude towards eternal life makes itself clear. If we have acted our whole lives as if there is no after-life, then the most important thing at the moment death approaches is prolonging our earthly life. The wicked thief is here, using whatever he can to motivate Jesus to save him from the grim reaper.

If, on the other hand, we live in knowledge that there is an after-life, then at the end of our lives we are focused on going to the right place, since we are going to be there forever. The good thief sees his earthly life ending and asks Jesus to save his eternal soul.

When we see Jesus on the Cross, it is a vision to which we must respond. Either he is what he says he is, or he is an utter fool. If he is a fool, he deserves to be mocked for his weakness. But what if we don’t see as well as we should? If we have let the habit of sin persist to a great extent, it prevents us from seeing clearly. So we are like the wicked thief, encountering the font of justice, and mocking him.

But if we see even in a limited way who he really is, he will offer us the healing power of his love. When our eyes are no longer clouded by the habit of sin, we see more clearly that he is King of All and Lord of the Universe. What looks to some to be a loser in life – dying a despicable death – is the king of eternal life, the victor over sin and death.

Both thieves recognize the power of Jesus, one more fully than the other. The good thief recognizes that He is the Son of God, made Man. And that he is going to his eternal glory at the right hand of the Father. Both thieves know Jesus is no ordinary criminal on the Cross. The one who does not see clearly mocks him for his worldly weakness, but the other acknowledges his eternal kingship. One will not ask for help, while the other asks for salvation. We need to remember that Jesus gives us ultimately what we truly want.

Jesus, by his obedience – even unto death on a cross – turned this dark day into Good Friday. Jesus made this day of disaster the day death was defeated. He continued to offer himself to anyone seeking salvation even as he himself was dying. That’s how much he loved those thieves, and he loves you and me just as much.

Call out to Jesus. Receive salvation.

Good Friday 7th Word 2020

It was around midday, and darkness came over the whole land until midafternoon with an eclipse of the sun. The curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two. Jesus cried out in a loud voice: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” He then inclined his head and died.

St. Anselm taught that the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was something only a man must do and only God could do. Jesus is true God and true man, one person of the Trinity with two natures. Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped but came down in love and took on the form of human flesh. He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He shared with us in everything but sin. His sacrifice is now complete. His establishment of the new Passover meal is now complete. His earthly ministry is now complete. Sharing in our humanity he will endure death.

With this last word he continues to teach his children. Perfect in every way, he is the perfect rabbi. He reminds us that death is – even for us – a temporary condition. Our spirit will live forever. Our soul is immortal, and Jesus shows us the way because he is the Way. He says into your hand I commend my spirit. Jesus has shown through the passion that he is not merely the victim but is also the priest. He is choosing his path at the end of his life. He chooses to be with his father in Heaven forever. We need to choose our destination. If we participate in the life of Christ, if we take up our cross and carry it to our Calvary, if we choose mercy over judgment, then we choose to commend our spirits into the care of our heavenly father. We choose to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus and the father.

Our eternal souls will be united with our glorified bodies when Jesus comes back at the general judgment. We choose in this life where we will spend the next life in those glorified bodies.

Jesus has completed the making of the New Covenant. The Law written in the books of Moses is now written in our hearts. Jesus has shown his disciples how to live the law within our hearts, how to live in response to the great dignity he gave us in creation. Now he shows us how to die in that dignity, in the supremely confident knowledge of who our father is and how much he loves us.

It has been dark because of an eclipse for the three hours Jesus has been hanging on the Cross. The heavy curtain inside the Temple has been torn in two. Mary and the other ladies, along with the younger son of Zebedee, watch this gruesome execution in horror and anguish. Now the soldiers are told to break their legs and bring things to a more rapid end. Methodically, they break the legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus. They pause before moving toward the True Cross, the cross on which Truth Incarnate has been condemned to die; condemned by the arrogant Roman Empire in cahoots with scheming religious leaders. One more affront to God: breaking his legs after breaking his heart.

The soldiers will not get the chance, for Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, has one last message for his followers before he gives up his earthly life. He will die in obedience to his Father’s will. He will humble himself to die on a Cross. But he will not die until he has imparted one last lesson for his Church. Loving us, he loved us to the very end.

With no breath left, with his very last breath, he showed everyone the communion of love that is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Father, he says, I who never left you for I am you, put into your hands myself, my entire self. You entrusted to me the salvation of mankind, and I now entrust you with all that I am as I allow my human life to perish on the Cross. I am the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice that redeems Man, who fell from grace through the presumption of Adam at the dawn of time.

This Roman state, this worldly state, thinks that its will and its power give it immortality. This state will die and be replaced many times over, for the power to kill cannot overcome the power of Everlasting Life. I am not executed. I lay down my life for the sins of all men throughout all time.

See how power of the state is shown to be powerless against faith.

See how the instrument of terror is become the means of salvation.

See how the Cross of the Lord is revealed to be the Tree of Life.

Good Friday 5th Word

Jesus, realizing that everything was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, “I thirst.” John 19:28

esus continues to pray the 22nd Psalm from the Cross. Everything is completed. Everything of his earthly ministry is completed, and he is preparing to give up his life. St. John the Evangelist makes sure we know this was no random event. This was no senseless execution. Good Friday, the day that Jesus died, was the pinnacle of his earthly ministry. This is what he came for. This is what the scriptures pointed to, if one but knew where to look and how to read them.

And Jesus is showing his Church from the Cross where to look and how to read. The people of Israel knew to look for the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ. And the Psalms point to him: Jesus is the Son of David, upon whose throne God has set him forever and whose kingdom will not end. But today, he is the “scorn of Men, cast away by the people.” The toast of the town on Sunday, he is cast away on Friday.

They are wagging their heads, in the Psalm Jesus is reciting, and there in front of him. They say in the Psalm and in the Gospel story, “He hoped in the Lord; let Him rescue him.” Prophetic words from the Psalms, the Jewish book of prayer, spoken today by those who have cast him away. Like the Psalmist, his tongue clings to his jaws, and he says, “I thirst” to those who have pierced his hands and his feet.

This is the Cup of Consummation in the New Passover. Jesus takes a bit of sour wine from the hyssop branch held up to his mouth. The Old Covenant is finished, it is completed, it is perfected. The New Covenant is established, and the 600 Laws of Moses are replaced by a Law of Love written on our hearts by Love Itself.

Jesus still thirsts. He thirsts for us, for our souls, for our salvation. He offers salvation, and it is up to us to accept it. He shows us from the Cross that suffering can have a great purpose and great power. The Jewish religious authorities believe they have won, but they have lost. The Devil thinks he has won, but he has lost if we turn toward Christ and unite our suffering with his on the Cross. That is our sacrifice. That is our participation in His sacrifice.

Many are suffering today. We are suffering without access to the sacraments. Many are suffering with the virus, and many more are suffering because of how we responded to the virus. This suffering does not have to be pointless. This execution was not pointless because it glorified God and brought the triumph of Life over Death. Our current suffering is not pointless if we offer it to God at the foot of the Cross. For he thirsts for us. His palate is drier than a piece of clay from a pot, and his tongue is stuck to his jaw. For he thirsts for us.

 

Good Friday 3rd Word 2020

Near the cross of Jesus there stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Seeing his mother there with the disciple whom he loved, Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, there is your son.” In turn he said to the disciple: “There is your mother.” From that hour onward, the disciple took her into his care. John 19:25-27

The Doctors of the Church have long understood this dialogue as John representing the Church, with Mary as Mother of the Church. Jesus established his Church, with his Mother as its Mother. This is the Church of Christ. We are the Church of Christ.

We are the called out, the ekklesia, which is the Greek word used for our English word Church. Ekklesia is those called out for a purpose. We are the Church, the called out for a purpose, established by Christ for his purpose.

We are called out to be wisdom. We are called out to be courage. We are called out to be love.

We are called out from the Cross. In fifty days, the Holy Spirit will descend upon the Apostles, but today from the Cross Jesus establishes his Church. From the Cross. Because it is from the Cross – and only from the Cross – that we will get true wisdom, divine wisdom, the wisdom that does not change nor weaken. It is from the Cross – and only from the Cross – that we will get true courage, holy courage, the kind of courage that stands in the face of earthly power because the power of God is mightier than the power of the world. It is from the Cross – and only from the Cross – that we can understand and share true love, the self-sacrificing love of the Cross that sustains us in our earrthly lives and perfects us for eternal life. The self-love of the world ultimately fails, for true love – the love that flows from the Cross – is love of generosity rather than selfishness. It is a giving love rather than a taking love.

Only John and the women are still at the Cross by this point in the Passion. The strength that sustains John and the women is a lonely strength. The strength of the Cross sustains us as we are lonely without the acclaim and honor of the world because we choose the Cross rather than the world. Mary and the women represent the feminine strength, the strength to persevere, to remain when others have already run away. Jesus and John represent the masculine strength, the strength to embrace the whipping, the crown of thorns, and the nails. All of us, all made in the image and likeness of God, have both the feminine and masculine strength, and we need both kinds to carry our crosses and persevere through the days of persecution and apostasy. We are called out to be the light of Christ in the world, a Church protected by the Holy Spirit and comforted by our Mother Mary.

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Good Friday 1st Word

Jesus was led along with two criminals to be crucified. When they came to the Place of the Skull, as it was called, they crucified him there and the criminals as well, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:32-34

From the description that St. Luke gives us, it seems the Jewish leaders did know what they were doing when they had the Romans crucify Jesus with the two criminals, yet his first word from the Cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

If they did not know what they did on Good Friday, then equally they did not know what they did on Palm Sunday when they welcomed Jesus as King with shouts of, “Hosanna!” as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. It was the same Jesus on Sunday and on Friday, and it was the same crowd, but there was a different response to Him.

One person knew what was really going on the whole time: Jesus. He knew why he had come down to earth as one of us, and he knew what his mission was when the crowd cheered him on Sunday, and he knew what it was when the same crowd jeered him on Friday.

There is no wisdom in crowds; there is only wisdom in the seat of Wisdom. It is only by establishing ourselves in the seat of God’s wisdom that we have any hope of knowing what is really going on. It is only by hanging on to the Cross that we protect ourselves from being lifted up momentarily by the crowd’s reaction only to be dashed down when the same crowd rushes away after some new delight or distraction.

Through the wisdom of the Cross, God gives us eyes to see through the surface reality of our choices to the deeper reality. Where the crowd might think we act foolishly, the wisdom of the Cross shows us we are acting wisely. For the Cross is foolishness to the world. By drawing strength from the wood of the Cross, we will not be weakened by the weakness of others but will manifest the strength of a disciple of Christ.

Through the power of the Cross, God gives us eyes to see his power still operating in a world that has largely turned its back on him as it did on Good Friday at Golgatha. The world rejected Jesus on Good Friday, and many of his followers did, too. The world today rejects Jesus, but his disciples follow him in his power nonetheless. We see him on the Cross, broken and yet unbroken. Even on the Cross, dying as victim, offering sacrifice as priest, Jesus retains all his power. And he uses his power to forgive those who in the vanity of worldly power seek to rid themselves of this troublemaker.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

 

Into Your Hands – The Seventh Word

seventhword

Into your hands I commend my spirit.

St. Anselm taught that the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was something only a man must do and only God could do. Jesus is true God and true man, one person of the Trinity with two natures. Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped but came down in love and took on the form of human flesh. He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He shared with us in everything but sin. His sacrifice is now complete. His establishment of the new Passover meal is now complete. His earthly ministry is now complete. Sharing in our humanity he will endure death.

With this last word he continues to teach his children. Perfect in every way, he is the perfect rabbi. He reminds us that death is – even for us – a temporary condition. Our spirit will live forever. Our soul is immortal, and Jesus shows us the way because he is the Way. He says into your hand I commend my spirit. Jesus has shown through the passion that he is not merely the victim but is also the priest. He is choosing his path at the end of his life. He chooses to be with his father in Heaven forever. We need to choose our destination. If we participate in the life of Christ, if we take up our cross and carry it to our Calvary, if we choose mercy over judgment, then we choose to commend our spirits into the care of our heavenly father. We choose to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus and the father. Continue reading “Into Your Hands – The Seventh Word”

Behold Thy Son – The Third Word

thirdword

“Woman, behold thy son … Behold thy mother.” [John 19: 26, 27]

As Jesus hangs from the Cross, his body weak from the night being tried by the Sanhedrin and Herod before being flogged by Pilate and sent to carry his Cross to Golgotha, he is naked and alone. Thieves on either side, Roman soldiers standing guard, he has none of his disciples to comfort him in his last hours of earthly life. Only two are there close to him.

His mother Mary is there with the youngest apostle, John the baby brother of James who are the sons of Zebedee. Mary knew more than anyone on Mount Calvary that this crucifixion was the execution of an innocent man. How her mother’s heart must have ached as she saw her son mistreated, whipped and finally hung upon the Cross to die slowly in the cruellest public death imaginable. Yet she has joy even at this darkest hour. She chooses to share in Jesus’ suffering, standing at the foot of the Cross. St. Ambrose writes, “I read of her standing, but not of her weeping.” Yes, she grieves, but it is a fruitful and mysteriously joyful grief. Continue reading “Behold Thy Son – The Third Word”