“O Cross, reign victorious! O Cross! Thou wilt redeem us. For all who yearn to see, give light, let darkness cease. True source of liberty O Cross, God’s seal of peace.” These are the words to the hymn that we are all very familiar with. It tells us in a nutshell what was the purpose of Jesus taking that “old rugged cross” to Calvary – it was none other than love. People fall in fall with another person for various reasons but the easiest way of falling in love with God is to look at the cross. Though love takes nurturing and time to grow and evolve, in this short period of the Holy Week, God manifests His divine nature though human vulnerability.
The passion narrative that we hear every Good Friday is presented in three parts: the arrest of Jesus and the examination by the high priest, the trial before Pilate, and the crucifixion, death and burial. In all of this, Jesus is portrayed as being in control of the events that culminate in His death. Though He seemed “powerless”, He was in total control on His decision to make this self-sacrifice; though He was being tried on false accusations, the accusers were the ones being judged; though He seemed defeated, it will be His cross that will reign victorious.
The cross is at the centre of our Good Friday celebrations. Though it portrays pain and suffering, it also brings to focus some images of Christ that we should not fail to reflect. Firstly, in the midst of the passion, we must see victory. Though Good Friday may be quickly forgotten when we celebrate Easter, the empty tomb would not have been possible without the cross. Secondly, the cross is the means by which God reconciles the divine and human worlds. The veil that was a physical and visible barrier to the “holy of holies, is now “torn in two” (cf. Mt 27:51) at the death of Jesus, indicates that we now have access to God. Christ opened for us through the “veil” the way to the Father. Thirdly, on the cross, Jesus is revealed as the King of the Universe (axis mundi – centre of the universe). The notice that was fixed on the cross “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” bears testimony that Jesus now reigns as the King. In fact, Jesus exercises His messianic kingship through His acceptance of suffering – our crowned but crucified King.
Many of us are quick to think that when Jesus told His disciples that in order to be His disciple, one has to carry the cross (cf. Mt 16:24-26) and that cross is often associated with pain and suffering. Notwithstanding the fact that suffering is constitutive of the Christian life, the cross is also the means of healing, the cross that redeems us. In the words of Pope Francis, “The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to re-establish the original bonds of brotherly [and sisterly] love.”
In a world that has been fragmented financially, emotionally, and even spiritually by a pandemic, the time has come to heal every wound. By dying on the cross, Jesus teaches us there is joy to be found precisely in the stress and strain of our making sacrifices for others. So as we gaze lovingly upon the wood of the cross on which hung the Saviour of the world, let us allow the power of the cross to transform and heal us so that we in turn can transform and heal the lives of those whom we care around us.
As we “venerate the cross” let the healing power of the cross of Christ become alive in us. For it is only then that we are able to fully share in Jesus’ greatest act of love – His self-giving for the well-being of humankind.
“Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God’s logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but of love and of self-giving that brings life.” (Pope Francis).
Good Friday (2 April 2021)