Friday, April 14, 2006

Jn 19:28-29

After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, I thirst. There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (Jn 19:28-29)

Here we are again, commemorating the saddest event in history. The second day of day of the Triduum, of course, we celebrate the passion deathDeat of Jesus Christ. Christ the Lord, the only son of God, is nailed to the cross to be put to death at the behest of the Jews and at the hands of the empire. But Jesus Christ also dies in the manner reserved for the most lowly, heinous criminals. So why is this death remembered so greatly? We any more than that of the criminals being crucified on either side of Him?

When you think about Judea and where it is situated geographically, you realize there are gods coming up from Egypt in the south, and several gods coming Mesopotamiaamia to the east. Also, to the northwest, you have Greek deities.

But in 33 AD, you have a man who said and whose followers believed to be God incarnate. Not another prophet, and not only the greatest of the prophets...God. A person you can detect with all your senses.

This is a radical departure from the norm which was gods who you praised an worshipped and offered sacrifices to, but who you really could not know. You just didn't know the gods. Even if you died you weren't going to go anywhere where you could know the gods in any real way.

But out of what was considered the back-alley of the Roman Empire come this man who claims to be the son of the most high.

Now take this and apply it to the first Good Friday. This person who hailed to be God walking on this earth is now being executed like commonestnest criminal. If you were there back then, it would have been tough not to jeer at Christ like Caiaphas did.

With that, what character from the passion narrative best represents us?

Are we the other ten apostles who are faithful to Jesus but just can't carry it when it comes to being a witness in the outside world?

How about Mary and the other women of Jerusalem, sticking with Christ in the darkest hours, even at the risk of being labeled a "nut" or a "fanatic" for doing so?

Or Pontius Pilate? We sympathize with Jesus, perhaps to great extents, but if that leads to trouble, we wash our hands of the matter.

Or Caiaphas, who was the anti-thesis of the women of Jerusalem? If we don't get our pay-off now, forget it.

It is impossible to hold ourselves to the standard of Mary who is without sin. But we as Catholics are not called to do the bare minimum. We will always fall and lose heart and get discouraged when it seems like our prayers are falling on deaf ears. Strive always to be like Mary and the other women and not decline to walk with Christ because it will be embarrassing. Like the apostles, too, let us go out and spread the full news so that we may be of one faith united under one shepherd adoring one savior.

But now, let us keep our focus on one thought: the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

My favorite peice of art ever composed, painted, or sculpted is easily Michelangelo's Pieta. In this sculpture the artist masterfully caught the emotion of a mother holding her dead son. Look at Jesus as Mary does. Try and share her painful emotion as she gazes in shock at the body so limp from giving everything to the salvation that was His sacred cause. The din and clamor of the crucifixion is over...now let the sorrowful silence come. Christ has died. His mother weeped, so should we, whether physically or internally.

Jesus Christ is the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. On the third day, we will celebrate the shepherds conquering, like King David conquering over the Philistine. But again, for now, let us keep the attention on the cross, and conquering with it. Conquer with it like all the popes, bishops, priests, fathers, and mothers in the past who died for name of Jesus and by the sign of the cross. With God on your side, there will be no holding you back.

In the year 315, when praying for a way to defeat his rival, the Roman Emperor Maxentius, Constantine gazed into the sky and saw none other than the Holy Cross being exalted. Beneath it, a message: By this sign, CONQUER.

Blessed be the cross.
Blessed be the body it held.
Blessed be the blood it absorbed.
Hail Jesus Christ, the man of sorrow.