Friday, April 22, 2011

Sinless in the Sinner's Stead

Good Friday
Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
Rosary Monastery, St. Ann’s
22 April 2011
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

          “By force and by law he was taken; would anyone plead his cause?”

I often wonder just how ready you and I are to identify with the Lord Jesus delivered up for all of us. Without even wishing to be too radical about it all, I wonder how many of us would be ready to face jail or some other curtailment of our civil rights for the sake of defending the truth, let us say against a government which does not defend the defenseless (by promoting abortion or mercy-killing of those who cannot speak for themselves) or against any earthly power which deprives me of choices which are fundamental choices and in conformity with the teaching of the Church and the dictates of my conscience as informed and enlightened by God’s law. Could I face the persecution many of my Catholic brothers and sisters face in countless countries around the world today?
“By force and by law he was taken; would anyone plead his cause?”
“It’s just not fair!” We hear said over and over again. Most of us spend a goodly amount of time rebelling against the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Life should be decent we claim, decent and dignified for one and all. And yet Jesus was taken, and very much alone with none to defend Him, Jesus was indeed taken “by force and by law”: He the sinless one in the sinner’s stead.
“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.”
That the Father heard the Son’s prayer is sure; it is our faith which teaches us this. He hears the prayers of all who identify with His Son in the very same way. Good Friday is a meditation on His terrible and undeserved suffering, which He shouldered just as He shouldered the Cross, for the sake of the life of the world. Jesus humbled Himself that we, sinful humanity who turn to Him, that we might be exalted in Him. If we share His Cross we will share His Glory.
Why do we venerate the wood of the Cross today? What is the sense or what meaning should that genuflection, that bow have? How can we explain that kiss for the wood today, of our crucifix which is a remembrance of the Cross drenched with His Blood so long ago? What kind of a statement are we making? Does it come from the heart? Or is it just a simple and unthinking gesture, little more than one of the many quick swishes of the hand and arm with which we bless ourselves each day? Or does this veneration of the Cross touch our souls and say clearly where we want to go with our lives? Our veneration of the Cross should be our way of saying by gesture: “Jesus, I am with You, with You all the way to the Cross”!
          I really don’t want through more words than that to detract from your individual meditation on Jesus’ love for us as evidenced in His Sacrifice for us upon the Cross, but I would like your honoring His Cross to be, yes, a thank you, yes, a sign of affection for Him on your part, but also a yes, here am I, Lord, I come to do your will. I pray that your veneration of the Cross today would be a “yes” to the invitation from Jesus that we become a new creation in Him, that we set our hearts on His world, on the life of the world to come, that we bind ourselves without reservation to Jesus, just as for our sake Jesus allowed Himself to be bound to the Cross.
“We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us. Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth [] by force and by law he was taken; would anyone plead his cause?”
It may be that we expect too much out of this life in terms of justice and fairness, maybe not, maybe we live in quiet desperation, hoping for little or nothing. The point is that in one direction or the other we have strayed and most certainly we have failed to bind our lot in this world to Christ and to His Cross. Let us turn together in repentance and in hope to Him Who reigns, Who rules the whole world upon that life-giving Tree. Behold the Wood of the Cross!

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