Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Marienhaus, Germany
April 21, 2000
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 I have composed for our meditation what might be called in our Catholic tradition a Litany of the Sufferings of Christ. We will follow Christ from the Upper Room to his being lifted up on the Cross on Calvary. At each of the steps, try to enter into Jesus’s suffering and love. I would invite you to respond silently, in these or similar words and sentiments: “JESUS, HOW GREAT WAS YOUR LOVE THAT YOU BORE SUCH PAINS FOR ME!”
UPPER ROOM (MOUNT ZION) TO MOUNT OF OLIVES (Mk 14:26; Lk 26:39; Jn 18:1)
You suffered Judas’ betrayal, who then went out into the night (Mt 26:14,25; Mk 14:10,21; Lk 22:21)
OLIVES TO GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE (Mt 26:36; Mk 14:32; Jn 18:1)
You were deeply grieved, even unto death (Mt 26:38; Mk 14:34)
You were so grieved your tears and sweat became like drops of blood (Lk 22:45)
You suffered the failure of Peter, James and John to stay awake in prayer vigil with you three successive times (Mt:26:37; Mk 14:37ff; Lk 22:46)
You suffered through the terrifying prospects of the bitter chalice you would have to drink, but said instead, out of love for the Father and us, “Not my will but thine be done.” (Mt 26:44; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:41)
You suffered the kiss of Judas, a sign of love turned into a sign of betrayal (Mt 26:49; Mk 14:45; Lk 22:48; except kiss, Jn 18:5)
You suffered being treated like a robber (Mt 26:55; Mk 14:48; Lk 22:52; Jn 18:3,12)
You suffered the betrayal and desertion of the rest of the disciples, scattered like sheep as you had prophesied (Mt 26:31,55; Mk 14:27,50;)
GARDEN TO ANNAS (John 18:13)
You suffered the uphill climb to Annas’ house (John 18:13)
You suffered getting slapped by Annas’ police force and condescendingly interrogated “Is that how you answer the high priest?” for telling Annas the truth (Jn 18:22)
GARDEN (ANNAS) TO CAIPHAS (Mt 26:57; Lk 22:54) (Jn 18:24)
You suffered hearing the false and conflicting testimony against you (Mt 26:58-60; Mk 14:56)
You suffered being accused of blasphemy by the high priest (Mt 26:65; Mk 14:64;)
You suffered hearing your condemnation to death by chief priests (Mk 14:64;)
You suffered the guards’ spitting in your face, striking you and blindfolding you (Mt 26:67; Mk 14:65)
You suffered the guards’ mocking you, telling you to prophesy as Messiah who struck you (Mt 26:68; Lk 22:64)
You suffered the guards’ beating you (Mk 14:65; Lk 22:63)
You suffered being found and forcibly led through the streets to Pontius Pilate (Mk 15:1-2; Lk 23:1)
You suffered from seeing Peter on the way, having betrayed you three times (Lk 22:61).
CAIPHAS, BOUND, TO PILATE THE GOVERNOR (Mt 27:2; Mk 15:2; Jn 18:28)
You suffered hearing the accusations of high priests against you in front of Pilate (Mk 15:3; Lk 23:2), that you had “perverted your nation,” “forbade them to pay taxes to the emperor” and proclaimed yourself as Messiah and king.
You suffered through Pilate’s lengthy interrogation (Jn 18:33-38), culminated by his question “What is truth?” in front of you who are the truth.
You suffered his sending you over across the city to Herod Antipas’s residence in order for Pilate to curry political favor with the Galilean king (Lk 23:7).
PILATE’S RESIDENCE TO HEROD’S RESIDENCE (Lk 23:7)
You suffered from Herod’s desire to have you put on display as a miracle worker, as he had done to your precursor, John the Baptist, whom he had killed (Lk 23:8)
You suffered in silence Herod’s lengthy questioning (Lk 23:9)
You suffered once again listening to the “vehement” accusations of the priests and the scribes again you in front of Herod (Lk 23:10)
You suffered from Herod’s and his soldiers’ contemptuously mocking you (Lk 23:11)
You suffered Herod’s putting an elegant robe on you and sending you back to Pilate across the city once again to Pilate’s praetorium (Lk 23:11).
HEROD’S RESIDENCE BACK TO PILATE’S RESIDENCE (Lk 23:11)
You suffered hearing the crowds, the people you loved and were about to die for, choose Barabbas, a thief and a murderer, over you (Mt 27:21; Mk 15:11; Lk 23:18; Jn 18:40).
You suffered having to hear those words from those you were created and were about to redeem, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” (Mt 27:22,23; Mk 15:13;14; Lk 23:21,23; Jn 19:6)
You suffered the stripping and the terrible scourging at the hands and whips Pilate’s guards, tearing over a hundred times into your naked flesh (Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15; Jn 19:1).
You suffered being dressed up in a scarlet robe and mocked by the whole cohort of Roman soldiers (Mt 27:27; Mk 15:16; Jn 19:2)
You suffered receiving the crown of thorns on your head and a reed in your hand (Mt 27:27; Mk 15:16; Jn 19:2)
You suffered the guards’ striking and mocking you, saying “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Mt 27:29: Mk 15:17; Jn 19:3)
You suffered the guards’ spitting on you, taking the reed from your hand and striking you with it on the head (Mt 27:30; Mk 15:19).
You suffered the public exposition and mockery made of you to the crowd, wearing crown of thorns and the purple Robe, hearing Pilate say “Behold the man!” (Jn 19:5)
You suffered a second public exposition by Pilate on the stone pavement, where he said to the bloodthirsty crowd, “Here is your king!” (Jn 19:14).
You suffered again hearing that crowd of your fellow Israelites call for your crucifixion (Jn 19:15)
You suffered hearing them saying, “We have no king by Caesar.” (Jn 19:15)
You suffered their stripping you again, as the purple robe ripped the scabs of the hundreds of scars from the scouring and you were put back into your own clothes (Mt 27:31).
PILATE’S RESIDENCE THROUGH VIA CRUCIS TO CALVARY (Mk 27:31; Mk 15:30; Lk 23:26; Jn 19:16)
You suffered their leading you out onto the crowded streets of Jerusalem bound to the patibulum of your cross (Mt 27:31; Mk 15:20; Lk 23:26; Jn 19:16-17)
You suffered from the weight of the cross and your pains, falling three times on the hard stone streets;
You suffered having to see your mother weeping over what they were doing to you;
You suffered from seeing the women crying for you on the roadside, unaware of what was coming for them and their children (Lk 23:28-31)
You suffered the pain of being stripped again with the clothes once moe ripping open your many wounds (Mk 15:24; Lk 23:34; Jn 19:23);
You suffered being nailed to the cross (Mt 27:35; Mk 15:24; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:18), four separate nails about eight inches long, penetrating the bones and the nerves of your hands and feet more deeply at each of the thrusts of the hammer. Rather than cry out in pain, you cried, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Lk 23:34)
You suffered being lifted up on the Cross, which would add to the pain.
You suffered from the asphyxiation such a crucifixion was meant to effect, having, in order to breath, to push yourself up by your legs which would have greatly aggravated the wounds of the nails through the nerves of your feet.
You suffered hearing the derisions of the passers-by while on the cross — “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt 27:40; Mk 15:29; Lk 23:35)
You suffered hearing the derision of the chief priests scribes and elders — “He saved others; he cannot save himself.” (Mt 27:41-42; Mk 15:31)
You suffered hearing the derision of the soldiers, who offered you sour wine and said, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Lk 23:36).
You suffered hearing the mocking of the thief on you left (Mt 27:44; Mk 15:32; Lk 23:39) — “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Lk)
You suffered seeing the women who loved you weeping in the crowd in front of the Cross (Mk 15:40; Lk 23:49)
You suffered seeing your mother there in so much anguish, along with Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalence (Jn 19:25).
You suffered having to give her away to your beloved disciple, and John to her (John 19:26)
You suffered from thirst on the Cross (Jn 19:29)
You suffered perhaps the greatest pain of all, the feeling of abandonment by your Father before your death, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34)
You suffered your last breath, final cry and death (Mt 27:50; Mk 15:37; Lk 23:46): “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk) “It is finished” (Jn 19:30)
“O JESUS, HOW GREAT WAS YOUR LOVE THAT YOU BORE SUCH PAINS FOR ME!”