My Dear Fellow believers! Good Friday has brought us together to adore Jesus hanging on the cross. The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah capture what Jesus looked like that first Good Friday: ‘As the crowds were appalled on seeing him – so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human.’ We remember that it was a grievous injustice done to him. The Roman Governor Pontius Pilate in his judgment made it clear that the accusation against Jesus had no merit: ‘I am going to bring him out to you to let you see I find no case.’ But when he realized that his stand could cost him his career he gave in to the demands of those who gathered in front of his palace.
So, are we here rallying against that injustice? Our Lord tells us something different in the words he addressed to the women of Jerusalem who mourned and lamented for him when he was carrying his cross: ‘Do not weep for me; weep rather for yourself and for your children… For if men use green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?’ Can you hear that the scourged and burdened with cross Christ on the way to the Calvary spoke of himself as a green tree. He who was doing the will of his Heavenly Father, he who loved all human children of his Heavenly Father to the very end, wanted those women and us as well, to see what he was put through as life giving. He repeated what he said before: ‘No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my free will.’ If he wanted to defend himself he could did it with his one divine and powerful word. He didn’t need Peter’s sword to protect him. That’s why even if we pity Jesus for his fate the prophet Isaiah moves our empathy to adoration: ‘The crowds will be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him, for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before.’
These words came to me some years ago when in an old Church in Europe I discovered a cross with a smiling figure of Christ. First I was astonished and speechless. I even thought that it was something wrong. But as I was gazing on this unusual crucifix I remembered a story of a mother and her daughter drowning in a river. When some people came to their rescue the woman pushed the child up. Seeing the child being saved there was a smile of relief on her face despite being sucked to her death by the river current. That ancient crucifix wasn’t scandalous but it was powerfully preaching to worshippers and hopefully to tourists as well the depths of God’s love for us revealed in Jesus Christ. Later when I did some research I discovered that the most ancient crucifixes didn’t focus on suffering of Jesus. They presented the crucified Lord as Priest vested for Mass. They presented the crucified Lord as King robed in his royal regalia.
Today as we gather to celebrate the Passion of the Lord I invite you to gaze upon ‘the One whom they have crucified’ not as a victim but a conscious Priest making of himself the sacrifice for our sins.
Today as we gather to celebrate the Passion of the Lord I invite you to gaze upon ‘the One whom they have crucified’ not as a victim but a conscious King who came not to be served but to serve.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Take from this Liturgy the smile of the Crucified Lord. It is the smile which tells volumes about God’s love for you and me, for us.