“It is fulfilled” (Jn 19:30) Many of us have had the experience of having fulfilled or accomplished a task that has been given to us. Whether it is a project in the office, an assignment in school or college, or even of renovating parts of the house. A task that has been fulfilled, especially when a lot of effort has been put in, certainly brings joy and a sense of satisfaction, like a burden has been lifted off our shoulders. One could also say that every significant milestone in our lives brings with it a sense of fulfilment.

Today, while hanging on the cross, Jesus utters these very last words, “It is fulfiled”, perhaps not in the way most of us would have envisaged for ourselves or even wanted to experience. The sense of fulfilment here is hardly accompanied by joy or satisfaction but rather, humiliation, suffering, pain, and finally death.

To Jesus’ disciples, who abandoned Him at this very last hour, they must have felt disappointed and perhaps even defeated. All hopes and aspirations for a better future dashed by the arrest, unjust trial and the crucifixion of Jesus, their Lord and Master. The disillusionment led to them fleeing the scene, except for the beloved disciple.

Unknown to His disciples at that time, through the cross, Jesus had fulfiled what He was sent to do: “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (Jn 3:16-17). Jesus came to manifest the love of the Father and save us from sin and death. This is what Christ fulfilled, though it is only much later that the disciples will come to understand this act of redemption.

The cross that stands before our eyes today reminds us of that fulfilment. God kept His end of the promise (covenant) and perhaps today we need to ask ourselves, have we fulfilled what the cross was intended to accomplish – because in following Jesus, just as Jesus denied Himself and carried the cross, we too are called to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him (cf. Mt 16:24).

In an age of selfishness and self-fulfilment, we are called to self-denial. To deny ourselves (however difficult it may be) so that we can attach ourselves to the cross of love and redemption that Jesus carried for us all. Is this possible? The self-denial that we are called to is intended to free us from our self-centeredness, greed, and passions and in return, we obtain inner freedom to love God and one another, the inseparable and complementary command of Jesus.

Our self-denial need not be something dramatic or nearly as painful as what Jesus underwent. We can simply begin with just changing our mindsets and the way we do things to conform to what God is calling us to. In the words of St John of the Cross, “The Lord measures out perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them”… quality over quantity!

Therefore, the cross that we are called to pick up through self-denial and follow Christ does not need “to involve rough wood or heavy nails, but a love beyond our capacity to love, which means a love that has been given to us by God” (Catherine Doherty). Often, loving beyond ourselves and with no expectations in return can indeed be challenging and demanding… this is our way to the cross!

We cannot embrace the cross if we do not decide to love like Christ did because the mark of a disciple is love. Believe it or not, on Good Friday, God’s love is best understood through the cross. Amen.

Good Friday (10 Apr 2020)