Is. 52:13-53:12 Heb. 4:14-16, 5:7-9 Jn.18:1-19:42
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I imagine myself as Jesus’ beloved disciple. I stand on Calvary next to Mary.
Silence. That’s what strikes me the most. It is as if, after hours of ceaseless betrayal, shouts, punches, mockery, and shame, the day has exhausted its hatred and all that remains is silence. Clouds roll in from the North, and fear settles in my heart as never before.
Darkness. I look at Jesus’ bloodied body as it droops naked from a cross. Nails pin his hands and feet to the wood. He twists his body for some kind of relief. On a board above his crown of thorns, his crime states: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” How shameful to see my king die naked and mocked. How heartbreaking to see my friend forgotten and alone.
I wonder to myself “How did it ever get this bad? What happened to turn things so horribly wrong?”
Suddenly Jesus gasps. Swallows. Speaks, “Woman, behold, your son.”
I look to Mary. She is exhausted, pale, and scared. She had spent years following her son through thick and thin. Now she must watch her son die. Her heart is bound to die with his.
Jesus gasps again and speaks to me “Behold, your mother.” I turn again to Mary. There is no other place I would want to be than with my king and his mother, even at this hour and in this condition. I cannot leave. Even when the sights of death and hatred loom all around me, I feel feel God’s love and I am grateful.
I reverence the sacred moment and gratitude fills my heart.
The Good Friday narrative is always hard for me to read. I can’t just “skim through it.” I must reverently let its spiritual richness soak over me. I can feel the gifts of mercy and salvation flow over me just as Christ’s blood flowed from from his hands, his feet, and his pierced side.
However difficult it may to contemplate Christ on the cross, I cannot help but experience the gift of gratitude. I am thankful because, when I am completely honest with myself, I know that we are all sinners, that no one but God can heal our hurt, and that the Son has come into the world to do just that.
Moreover, the first reading for today states, “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole” (Isaiah 53:5). I am thankful also for the way in which the Son chose to save the world, by humbling himself and taking on every shame, hurt, and hatred that the human condition is able produce. By accepting all of who we are, the good and the bad, he in effect saved all of our being. Christ’s death on the cross didn’t just claim part of my being for God. It claimed the whole thing. Christ freed all of who we are, to the depths of our souls, so that we may share life with God forever. This Friday is in fact, Good. So, I take part of this day to sit and recall in gratitude the hardship of Christ’s cross and the glory of God’s salvation.
Sean Michael Powers, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic currently in his second year studying philosophy and studio art at Saint Louis University. He is helps with Campus Ministry and Christian Life Communities (CLC).