Friday, April 10, 2009

To Ransom a Slave You gave away Your Son

Good Friday – 10 April 2009

Rosary Monastery, St. Ann’s

“This is the Wood of the Cross on which hung the Savior of the World.”

Our First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah struck me in a very particular way this year. Just think that it was written long before the time of Jesus.

“On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us.”

As prophecy Isaiah not only or not so much predicts what was to come in the life of Jesus as he highlights or explains the sense of Jesus’ sacrifice for us upon the Cross. God in effect prepared the people of the Old Testament not only for what was to come, but more importantly He prepared them for the “how” by which they were to be saved.

“His soul’s anguish over, he shall see the light and be content. By his sufferings shall my servant justify many taking their faults on himself.”

Jesus says it in John’s Gospel as He speaks of the glory to be His when He is lifted up on the Cross. Our Second Reading from the Book of Hebrews leaves us no doubt in understanding the import of today’s events.

“During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.”

Good Friday should really touch us. The events recalled cry out for a prophet’s explanation. The prophet must speak and help us understand: Jesus’ being handed over to sinners, the wrongful judgment pronounced against the Innocent One, His lonely and burdensome way through the city of Jerusalem shouldering the Cross up to Calvary, the Place of the Skull, His abandonment nailed to the Cross and deprived of basic human respect before He was deprived of His very life’s breath, and His hasty burial in a borrowed tomb. With the prophet’s help we can rescue these terrible events from being reduced to a mere human tragedy. Here much more is at stake than the life of an innocent man. We must see and understand the events of Good Friday for what they really are, namely, the way of our salvation. God spared not His only Son, but delivered Him up for the sake of all of us.

In the Easter Vigil we sing: “To ransom a slave you gave away your Son”. That is the simple truth which carries us where we can hardly imagine going. God loves us, each and every one; He loves us without call; He loves us to the extreme. For our English speaking world, the old spiritual says it quite poignantly: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? …Sometimes it causes me to tremble…”

As we pray today on Good Friday, a little extra silence is certainly appropriate. As we pray today, some inward trembling before the Divine Sacrifice which saves us from our sins is more than right. Good Friday is not every day; it is once a year.

Can you only kiss the Cross, venerate the Cross, once a year? I don’t know; I guess I wouldn’t say that is necessarily so. Quite a few years back now there was a popular campaign on to get people to always carry a small cross mounted on a prayer card in your pocket or purse and every now and then just touch it and remember how we were saved. Our own private kind of Good Friday devotion, embracing the Cross or kissing the Cross, just could be every day and, if it were done with proper devotion, it would do much to open our eyes and hearts to Jesus Who suffered and died for us.

“This is the Wood of the Cross on which hung the Savior of the World.”

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