Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
April 13, 2001
Is 52:13-53:12; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1-19:42
This is a day for Christians throughout the world to weep. To weep over the great sufferings of Christ. To weep over our sins that brought those sufferings upon him. To weep over the heartless and wickedness of those who so maltreated him. But mainly, to weep in amazement over HOW GREAT WAS JESUS’ LOVE FOR US, who suffered so very much out of love for us! For each one of us! (cf. Gal 2:20).
The Cross we will venerate today, the Cross that you sisters have the privilege to wear on your habits, is the greatest sign of love the world has ever seen. It is a sign of the love which made Jesus capable of bearing his sufferings, because he loved us so much more than what he suffered. It wasn’t enough that the Son of God came down on earth from heaven to take on our human nature so that he could redeem it. It wasn’t enough that he put up with those like us for more than thirty-three years! He, as we heard last night, loved us to his last drop of blood. After terrible sufferings, he consented to being lifted up like the serpent in the desert, he consented not only to carrying his cross but to being nailed to it so that that Cross would become the New Tree of Life in the new beginning, the second chance, each member of the human race would have through the redemption wrought by the New Adam.
But Jesus’ sufferings, and the love that made them bearable, are too often taken for granted or neglected altogether by Christians. We live in a world and in certain parts a Church that has forgotten, to a large degree, what SIN is, and when we focus on the Passion and the Death of the Lord, we cannot fail to confront sin face-to-face, and what sin, what OUR SINS and those before us and after us, did to the most innocent and loving person the world has ever known, did to God himself. And if we do not come to grips with the depths of the horror of these sins — sins that were destined to kill us if Jesus did not allow them to kill him instead, taking them upon himself to free us from sin and death — we will never be able to recognize the extraordinary gift that is the triumph over these sins and death on Easter Sunday.
Therefore, it is good for us, and particularly fitting on Good Friday, to focus on the sufferings of Christ borne out of love for us, borne to save us from these sins. To go slowly and meditate on each of them. To immerse ourselves in the sufferings of Christ. To immerse ourselves in his physical, psychological and spiritual pain. And to immerse ourselves in his complete and total love for each of us. No man has greater love, Jesus said to his disciples in the Upper Room and says to us this afternoon, than to lay down his life for his friends. No matter how many times we’ve betrayed Jesus and taken him for granted, he still calls us friends and still willingly ascended Calvary for us.
And so today we meditate upon one of the greatest hymns ever written in the English language, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”:
When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
and pour contempt on all my pride
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my Lord;
The vain things that now tempt me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
The pain and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were ev’ry realm of nature mine,
My gift would still be far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.