Posted by: Fr Chris | March 29, 2010

Seven Last Words #1

These are meditations which I preached this year at Annunciation Parish, every Friday of Great Lent. The preached version of course ended up somewhat different from the texts, but hopefully these will be sufficient for meditation. I might work on these and put them into a booklet for next year.

We will start then with a word that is not part of the 7 words from the Cross. It is the lonely sentence Jesus utters in Mark’s gospel in the garden – Let the scriptures be fulfilled.

Mark presents a tragedy in the garden: Jesus is abandoned, absolutely and totally, by those who loved him and whom he loved. I have great difficulty when someone whom I love and who I thought loves me abandons me, hurts me and walks out of my life with no explanation or a really lousy explanation. He warned Peter that he would betray his Lord; he has knelt in utter agony at the rock, seeing the vision of what he will suffer, and some mystics say, seeing the sins of the human race for which he will die in order to save the human race from its self-destruction of sinning, but in Mark, Jesus really is still not prepared for what happens. He is bloody from sweat – and he will have nothing to eat or drink during the long night of interrogations, the tortures. The body only has 3.5 liters of blood, and already he is pouring out his life’s blood onto the earth. Everyone takes off, and Mark has the odd sentence about the young man who runs away naked after the soldiers grab at his linen robe. A linen robe tells us that this young man was wealthy. Jews were absolutely against public nudity, which is one of the elements of crucifixion that was so painful for Jews, and that rich young man – some say it is Mark himself – runs away naked rather than go with Jesus to the high priest. Jesus is utterly alone – no angels, no trumpets, no friends.

Jesus must face death. Death is not natural. Death comes into the world beacause of Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience and desiring to be like God. The NT tells us that death is an enemy to be conquered. With his saving death on this cross, Jesus is going to conquer not only Death, but also Satan. Satan uses death as a weapon – why believe in your God if you must die? Jesus faces the satanic evil, the wrenching disruption of the soul and body, alone. You and I will never face death alone, even if we are abandoned by those who love us and whom we love. Even if we are suffering at the hands of those who supposedly love us (Zechariah  12 ) “these are the wounds I received in the house of those who loved me”. No, death is defeated because after Adam and before Jesus, death meant the soul went to Sheol and the body was left to decay. With Jesus, the body will be brought back in a glorified state at the general resurrection, and the soul will indeed enjoy the vision of God forever. And we will never die alone – He Who is the 2nd person of the Trinity, He Who made all through the Words uttered by God in Genesis, He Who walked in Galilee will be with every single Christian soul who cries out to him. And he can only give us that gift because He submits to the prophecies, and thus says, Let the Scriptures be fulfilled.

When Jesus is put on trial, what does He say to the high priest that causes the priest to rip his garments and declare Jesus a blasphemer? He takes the title of Son of Man to himself, and He says He will be at the right hand of God, equal to God, in the power on high – that he is indeed from God and of God and with God and is God.

The priests and elders break their own law by meeting at night, by spitting on him, by letting themselves be coerced into condemning him, by allowing their soldiers to hit him and slap him and mock him. He who gave the law to Moses is now tortured and humiliated by those who break that same law.

And Peter? Kepha? At the third denial of J, he curses. Many scholars think that Mark is saying that Peter cursed Jesus – in order to save his own skin, he curses the man who he believes is the messiah, and thus sinks to the lowest level of any disciple. At the moment when the Sanhedrin mock Jesus by telling him to prophesy, Peter, who Luke says Jesus looks at , knows that Jesus is indeed a true prophet. Matthew says that Peter goes out and weeps bitterly – tears open the way to true repentance and reconciliation – but Jesus is still alone.

And now we draw near to Pilate – Pilate who is astonished at what the Jews are demanding of him- he says “Why? What has he done?” But Pilate wants to save his own skin, even more so than Peter, and so he literally washes his hands of responsibility, thrusting it back on the priests and the representatives of the people. But remember, in the Stations we see that it is not true that all Jerusalem turned against Jesus on this Passover. Rather, Jesus will find comfort from the weeping women, from his own mother, and from young John, and those who are the anawim, the holy ones, who after his death leave Calvary beating their breasts in sorrow, mourning the death of the prophet. But again, Jesus dies alone. And what happens in between Pilate and Herod toying with the fate of our Lord, and the way of the Cross that we will recite tonight? It is found in the 2nd and 3rd sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary —  Scourging and the Crowning with thorns.

The whip – laced with sharp bone to rip the skin apart, in some cases cutting down to the bones and ribs and exposing those to the air. The blood pours out, coagulates, then is torn again, 39 lashes, enough to leave a man seriously maimed and crippled. The crown – not a wreath, but we know now a helmet. Of thorns that are up to three inches long from a particular plant that grows there, thorns that dig into his scalp and cut the nerves and bring out more blood. Three inches is pretty long, and the points are brutally sharp. O my Jesus how you suffer. And why? You suffer for me. This Friday night, can we begin to be sorrowful for our faults, regret our sins, see that by continuing to hurt God we hurt ourselves, those near us, and all humanity and indeed all creation. Why does he suffer? Let the scriptures be fulfilled – and what does he achieve in fulfilling those prophecies? When we get to the last station, where the apostles are still scattered and two leaders of the people Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea come forward to claim the body, when we see young John and Mary the weeping Mother of God and the holy women collected together for a sad procession to the new tomb – even in the words a new tomb in which no one had been laid give us a slight hope – it is an echo of the womb of Mary which had never known a child until this most holy Child, and will never know any other child just as Jesus’ tomb would never know any other body – there is a hint that this procession is the burial of a king who was in supreme control of all that happened, and Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sit and wait and watch outside the sealed cave, that earthen womb, wondering perhaps at all that happened on that unbelievable day. And now we will walk, walk with Jesus who has been bleeding since Thursday, Jesus who has been tortured and humiliated, Jesus who is weak and falls many times tearing his knees and shoulders, Jesus who is in agony with the searing pain in his head, Jesus who will try to love those who weep for him, Jesus who is our love, Jesus who is our joy, Jesus who is our life – walk with him tonight and the rest of Lent and ask Him to show us what we must be delivered from that is killing our souls and helping to break God’s creation, and in this walking tonight, and the next five Fridays, and the days in between, hear Him who suffered alone speak to us, who do not have to suffer alone, but who can walk with Jesus if only we open the doors of hearts and let Him pierce our souls not with  thorns but with deep longing for Him, a longing that will last beyond Lent and carry us to the moment when we will finally see God’s glory.

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