02 April 2010

Good Friday

How did it come to this? The conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit was announced by an angel to his virgin mother, the woman full of grace. His growth in the womb brought confessions of faith from his unborn kinsmen John and John’s mother Elizabeth. His birth was greeted with joyful song by the choir of angels and with puzzled wonder by simple shepherds and philosopher kings. His hidden years, living in obedience to his virgin mother and his foster father, were filled with growth as he was filled with wisdom. At length he came forth from Galilee, preaching a Gospel of love, forgiveness, and peace. He healed the sick, made the blind to see and the dumb to speak; he restored palsied limbs and raised the dead to life. How did it come to this?


The birth of Jesus, while greeted with joy by some, was also greeted with fear by others. Innocent children in Bethlehem were slaughtered just so he might not live. His parents had to flee with him through the desert to safety in Egypt and live there in hiding until the murderous pagan king died. Once Jesus began his public ministry, he called all people to conversion from their sins and condemned false religion as an offense to God Most High. How did it come to this?


It was foretold by Simeon, the righteous and devout man who greeted the Holy Family in the Temple at Jerusalem: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” How did it come to this? It came to this because he came for this: to suffer and to die and to rise again that our age-old captivity to sin and death might be destroyed forever.


When Jesus first announced this strange and awful truth to the Twelve, they could not bear it. No sooner had Simon Peter confessed his faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God than Jesus began to teach the Twelve that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” This was too much for Peter: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” On hearing Peter’s protest, the Lord Jesus, who had just named Simon the Rock on which his Church would be built, exclaimed: “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”


To set our minds on the things of God requires that we accept several disruptive and startling truths: that we are sinners in need of redemption, that our redemption was accomplished by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that our acceptance of that redemption demands that we join Jesus in the thing Peter feared most: the Way of the Cross.


How did it come to this? It had to come to this if we are to live not as slaves to our own sins but as children of our heavenly Father, children adopted by grace and restored to the evangelical freedom for which we were created. And here we learn the deepest truth of how it came to this: not by the hatred of those who rejected Jesus and who sought to murder him; instead, it came to this by the love of Jesus who gave himself for us freely, so that we could share his glory forever, the glory of the only Son of the Father. That is how it came to this: Jesus came to us to suffer, to die, and to rise and so to restore us to life.


We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.