We Must Glory in the Cross
Readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 30; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
What is so good about this Friday? With bare altars and empty tabernacle, we meditate on the horrific drama of the cross, thinking of the events of Good Friday. It doesn’t seem to make any sense.
The entrance antiphon for Holy Thursday, taken from St Paul, began: ‘It is our duty to glory in the cross of Christ’. Is that what we mean by calling today Good Friday? Perhaps it should be called Bad Friday, a day when we rightfully beat our breasts in reparation for the sin of humanity against our God, a sin professed in the crucifixion of Christ and prolonged in the many transgressions of our daily lives. Emptiness, brokenness, and pain – these are all poignant themes for this day.
And yet, we call it Good Friday. We call it Good Friday because our Lord mounts that cross in love for us. It is the act of pure and total love, and it is this pure and total love that cannot be destroyed. The cross becomes the symbol of this supreme act of love, and today we commemorate that cross, the symbol of love that pervades the misery and sorrow of our human lives.
Recently I shared a day of recollection with some members of the Legion of Mary. It was the Feast of the Annunciation, falling in the week leading up to Palm Sunday. Looking to the veiled cross in the sanctuary of the church we occupied, I invited those present to reflect on the love that is poured out on the cross. Each day when we recall the incarnation of Christ in the Angelus, we implore ‘that we to whom the incarnation of Christ was made known by the message of an angel may by his passion and cross be brought to the glory of his resurrection.’ One woman felt there was too much emphasis on the misery and suffering of the cross, but in our lives we meet pain and struggle constantly. In the frailty of our human nature, the love displayed on the cross is our hope and fulfilment. The blood that gushes forth from the crucified Lord washes clean our defilements, and brings us into the glory of the resurrection.
Without the cross, there can be no resurrection. Without the sufferings and sorrows that we experience, we cannot taste the love of the cross. This is why we are duty-bound to glory in the cross. This is why we are celebrating Good Friday. We are remembering the love that changed the world – the love that we share.
I keep in my breviary a little card. The card was left on the door of my room when I was a novice. I was going through a bewildering time, and a priest of my community wanted silently to preach to me the depth of Christ’s love for me – to show me that the love of Christ would cause us to weep tears of joy. ‘I asked Jesus’ it reads, “How much do you love me?” “This much” he answered; and He stretched out his arms, and died.’