THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST
(A biblical reflection on GOOD FRIDAY, 15 April 2022)
First Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalms: Psalm 31:2,6,12-13,15-17,25; Second Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16;5:7-9; Gospel Reading: John 18:1-19:42
About two thousand years ago a young man in Palestine who was in His prime, was put to death by the Romans at the instigation of the Jews, His own people. Jesus’ crucifixion is one of the greatest acts of injustice and cruelty in human history. Now, our big question is: “Why was He crucified if He was innocent?”
Jesus made two important claims: (1) He claimed to be a king and (2) He claimed to be the only Son of God. At His trial, when Pilate asked, “Are You a king?” Jesus replied: “It is You who say I am.” This seemed a threat to the authority of the Romans, who were ruling Palestine at that time. Jesus was accused of raising a revolt against the Romans. But we know Jesus’ Kingdom was not of this world.
Secondly, Jesus claimed to be the only Son of God. As far as the Jews and their leaders – the chief priests and scribes – were concerned, this was the most serious blasphemy that anyone could make. How can a man claim to be the Son of God, they thought. No religious founder except Jesus ever claimed to be the Son of God. Not only did Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, but He showed it through His life, peaching, passion, death and resurrection.
Today we commemorate an event that did not merely happen in history more than 2000 years ago. If Christ’s crucifixion was only a historical event, it could not be meaningful or significant for our life. For we remain unaffected, indifferent to many events that happened in history; distance somehow takes the real effect away. As we have gathered here, we are commemorating something that is happening even today. For Christ is being crucified here and now, in the midst of the world.
We know that at this moment there are many innocent people out there who are being arrested, imprisoned, tortured and put to death; there are many out there who are forced to run away from their country and homeland, who are sick and starving and suffer all kind of injustices. Wherever innocent people are arrested and imprisoned, tortured and put to death, Christ Himself is being crucified; wherever people are naked, homeless and hungry, Jesus is being crucified. St. Vincent de Paul and St. Mother Teresa saw, in the faces of the deprived and the suffering, the face of Jesus crucified.
There is no suggestion that there are no sufferings in our own lives. We know the suffering we ourselves have to go through, almost daily, from morning to night. Suffering for parents in caring for their children, looking after home, the tensions in the workplace; for students to be faithful to their studies; for priests and religious to be faithful to their vocation and so forth. Thus we have our individual crosses, family crosses, and communitarian crosses to carry. The Cross for us is accepting the realities of life.
And yet our sufferings and crosses seem insignificant compared to those of many in our world. In order to understand how insignificant our cross is we need to look beyond ourselves, look beyond the narrow confines of self-love. We need to be open to the sufferings of others, no matter where: in Ukraine or in our own neighbourhood.
Thus, we can say that today we commemorate the greatest act of love in history: the cross of Jesus Christ. Let us take some extra time today to meditate before a crucifix. We look upon Jesus in all His lowliness – beaten, bruised, and bloodied. We see Him suffering, rejected and alone. Let us bow in reverence as we contemplate the full meaning of this holy day, when the Son of God became incredibly poor so that we could become unspeakably rich. Let us bless the One who now beckons us “to draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
What great love the cross reveals! This is covenant love, a love that springs from Jesus’ eternal promise to love and protect us. Covenant love is ever faithful. It is ready to die so that others may live. It is an eternal love, written in the very blood of Christ.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, today, as you meditate before the Lamb who was slain, consider the “bigness” of the cross. Has any other act of love ever brought forth such a flood of mercy and grace? Has any other sacrifice completely washed away every sin to come? Has any other act of love overcome the devil’s work of hatred and evil in the world?
How can we make the cross real in our lives today? By showing our loved ones the same covenant love that Jesus has shown us. What joy Jesus will have as He sees the fruit of His cross in the way we spread His love and faithfulness today! Remember: Every time we love as Jesus loves, we are actually bringing the very presence of Christ into the world where we live!
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You were perfectly innocent, completely free from sin. Yet You bore all of my sin and injustice as You hung upon the cross. Lord, on this Good Friday I join with the saints in heaven not to mourn what my sin did to You, but to rejoice in what Your love did for me. May this litany be in my heart today: Cross of Jesus, purify me. Blood of Jesus, cleanse me. Wounds of Jesus, heal me. Love of Jesus, free me. Mercy of Jesus, forgive me. Amen.
Jakarta, 15 April 2022
A Christian Pilgrim