Today, Good Friday, we are again invited to enter into the profound mystery of what happened at Calvary two thousand years ago.
The Passion of Christ is a story that has been told and retold through the centuries since then. It is the greatest story that has ever been told.
Many lives have been shaped and made fruitful by this story, by the Man who is the central figure of this story, the man called Jesus, who is also the Son of God.
We often hear and even repeat the usual phrases about Our Lord’s death – like, “He died for our sake,” “He saved us from sin,” “He died for our redemption.” These are all expressions of a profound truth. However, not everybody has heard this truth, nor has everybody truly believed it. For many, even believers, these expressions have become just slogans or overused words that, to our surprise and horror, don’t hold much meaning anymore.
But for us who have come here on this Good Friday and in thousands of Christian churches all over the world, we come because deep in our hearts, we want to be reminded again about the profound mystery of our redemption, to view with our minds’ eye the scenes of our Lord’s suffering and death as we follow Him on His way and finally linger at the foot of the cross, and to ask Him what it all means and holds for us today.
Who is this man Jesus? Who is this man whose death long ago we remember today and hold in our hearts?
Why and how is He supposed to be the center of our lives?
For 700 years before the Savior’s coming, the prophet Isaiah already foretold and described Him as the Suffering Servant.
As we listen again to parts of that prophecy (our first reading), let us have at the backs of our minds the account of the long gospel we have just heard, and (for those of us who have watched that celebrated movie of Mel Gibson) re-imagine the very vivid and graphic pictures he presented about the Passion of Christ.
Isaiah described the Suffering Servant thus:
“Even as many were amazed at him— so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man—
There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, . . . he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
. . . he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”
In our second reading Paul says of Jesus:
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Our Savior came at a time when the world was in darkness, when the world was a dangerous and wild place, where sin was commonplace, where man worshipped idols, not only idols like the golden calf, but idols in the form worship of self and selfish pleasure, idols of power and greed and of man’s injustice towards one another.
Christ came as Light to the world. But unfortunately, even after 2000 years, His light has not fully penetrated the darkness in many parts, in many souls. This world is still wild and dangerous as you and I can see and hear from the news, through the newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet.
It is plain that the world has lost the sense of sin even more. Modern culture considers no longer wrong or sinful but even preach as absolute rights acts and behavior that are contrary to the law that God, in His infinite wisdom, put in our human hearts. We live in a culture where suffering must be avoided at all costs and pleasure pursued at the expense of our dignity as children of God, and in huge numbers the helpless and vulnerable children of God yet unborn.
In more ways than one, there is now a more pronounced clash between the forces of light and darkness, of the culture of life and the culture of death, of good and evil in our society and in our lives. As true Christians, we know on which or whose side we must be.
As we commemorate the first Good Friday, the challenge to us is to always remember that our redemption was won, not with gold and silver, but with the precious blood of God’s only Son.
And so, in gratitude, it is only right and fitting that we love Jesus back. Let us love Him because He loved us first. For when he stretched out his arms on the cross, we were there, each one of us, our names on his lips. And when he was raised up between heaven and earth, broken and bleeding, we were there, each one of us, our faces swimming in His tears.
Let us love Jesus with all our hearts. Let us love Him through our actions, through our lives. Let us love Him by reflecting the light of Jesus to others and thus help Christ bring others back home to the Father. Let us stand up for Him wherever we are, wherever we move -- within our families, in our workplaces, our recreation places, in the public square, and in this society that has turned hostile to His values.
As we venerate with much love the cross on which God the Son died for us, let us not take it as mere sentimentality that will last only this Holy Week.
Our redemption has been won at a great price, but the saving act of Christ continues today in the Eucharist, which is a presenting again of His sacrifice and where He gives us again and again the Bread of Life, His own Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, another proof of God’s everlasting love for us.
That is why we must make Christ the Center of our Lives. That is why we must reject anything and anyone that tries to lead us away from Him.#