Posted by: Fr Chris | April 6, 2012

Good Friday 2012

Matthew 27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

 

Beginning of Christian contemplative prayer. There in the dark of the evening, after everything has been done that they could do. The others have left. They are all exhausted from the horrors of the day and the deep emotions they have felt.

 

Power went out from Him, which healed all the sick. Luke 16:19

 

Joseph of Arimathea gave up his family’s brand new tomb – why does that matter? A sacrifice on his part, a small one, for Jesus who has sacrificed everything; and J’s body rests inside an incorrupt tomb, rests inside an untouched place of the earth, just as at the beginning when the Divine entered into that tiny human zygote, it was inside the womb of the virgin, a place where no baby had been, a place untouched. Joseph waits while the women are cleaning up the body and wrapping it into the linen shroud, and then

he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb, and then he left.

 

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

 

No resurrection – except at the end of life; nobody had understood J when He spoke about the three days previously. No real hope. They are exhausted, drained, sad beyond sad.  But

 

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

 

These two had been at the cross – Mary Magdalene – which means either that she was from the northern town of Magdala, or her occupation, Mary the hairdresser; she who had been delivered from seven demons, which tells us that it was a terrible awful possession, an especially bad and frightening one; and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, two disciples of J. St Matthew says that they are part of a group of women who were watching the whole disaster, this massive tragedy, when the messiah dies so cruelly.

 

And power went out from Him which healed all the sick. Luke 16:19

 

That is what happened to M M – power from Him had saved her from a horrible, ugly, frightening fate: she had been possessed by seven demons. Seven tells us that it was a massive possession by multiple devils and that the possession was complete – she had lost herself. But somewhere in J’s wanderings around theHoly Land, he encountered M M and when He did, He saved her. He drove out those demons. When he did, he gave her back her life, her mind, her personality, her health, her very personhood. She became Mary again, either from Magdala or a hairdresser by trade. Doesn’t matter. What matters is this on Good Friday:

 

–         she is worn out from the day, and she and another of the women, the mother of the disciples James and Joseph, came from the group of women who took care of Jesus and the apostles, have taken care of Him in the last way that they can; darkness is spreading, now the darkness of evening and the Passover, and so all of them had to hurry and get Jesus’ body off of the cross and then down the hill to the cemetery and the tomb, and there they had to wash off all of that blood, all of the dirt, and clean him; and then wrap up his body in a big long linen sheet, and wrap  up the head and face last of all – and what did they all feel when they finally had to cover that sacred face, that face so bruised and battered from soldiers’ fists, but the face which they had loved, the face that to them had fulfilled the scripture show us your face and we shall be saved (Ps 80), and then when it was all done –all the washing and wrapping, and everybody had to go out into the garden, and Joseph of Arimathea rolls a huge stone across the doorway, and then —- what?

–         and now these two women simply sit there, facing the huge stone over the entrance, and look. They contemplate Jesus’ death, and the death of their hopes, contrasted with what they saw of Him in their lives, and Mary Magdalene in particular, of Jesus healing people at every level. Who is going to heal them now?

–         We come to the end of the day of the passion. We sit by Him and kneel by Him, and we will sit here in our dark church, facing the tomb. Dare we ask Him for anything after His horrible day? Dare we pray to Him, who endured it all for us, we to whom the gospel has been revealed, we to whom the fullness of revelation has been given in the Catholic Church, and yet we are the ones who continue to cause Him the most pain because of our determined intentions to continue to sin, sin, sin, sin and sin some more and so shove away His grace, shove away His love, push Him away so that we can get our own way, hurt Him because we know that we want or to do is not so good but after all I want it so must be okay, right? And in the end? We have shoved Him like those soldiers did, but the bruises we put on Him are worse, because we       know          better.

–         So my Jesus,  we sit with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, facing the tomb.

 

Today, April 6, 2012,  was the 14th day of Nisan on the Jewish calendar; at dusk, at sunset, the 15th day of Nisan began, and Jews are now sitting down to Passover meals.

 

From the careful work of scripture scholars, especially Father Raymond Brown in Death of the Messiah, we now know that Jesus was crucified on the 14th day of Nisan, and it was thus as St John described it in his gospel: while the lambs were being slaughtered in the temple, thousands of them, for the Jewish pilgrims who had come to the city for the festival, Jesus was ascending the cross. The Lamb of God, John points out to us, dies during that slaughter of lambs in the temple. His blood is the blood that will save us, not the blood of the lambs on door posts or plates, not the blood of any warrior or leader or politician or new messiah – and you notice that people like that never offer to die in order to save us. Instead of sacrificing themselves, they sacrifice everybody else.

 

Jesus sacrifices only Himself. The mob had said “his blood be on us and on our children” – a terrible sentence. But actually that is what they should have wanted, and what we should want – his blood on us and on our children. His blood. His life. What kept His sacred body alive on earth, is now stained deep into the wood of the cross, is all over his naked, tortured body; that saving life-giving blood. Last night He gave it to the twelve apostles, His precious blood and His entire body, His personhood, His soul, His divinity, His life. Judas left the twelve and Jesus with the Sacred Bread and Precious Blood in his mouth and went off to finish the deal with the Jewish priests and prepare to betray Jesus with a kiss.

 

That kiss would unleash the torrent of lawless behavior, physical abuse of Christ, a night time trial conducted away from the eyes of the faithful, more abuse of Jesus, and then He is turned over to the pagan foreigners to die. And before He can die, He suffers.

 

Isaiah 53:5 says that by His stripes – by the whip marks on His all-pure body – we are healed. The verse also says: But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our sins, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by His scourging – His stripes – His bruises – we are healed. Oh my Jesus ……… it took all that for us to be healed ……….. my Jesus.

 

Power went out from Him which healed all.

 

Oh, my Jesus – now Your blood goes out, soaking everything as it pours out from the whip marks, the thorns pressing into your skull and torturing your brain, your back, your arms and hands, your whole torso that has been whipped and beaten and bruised, and then running down the calves of your legs, over your knees. Your shoulders are torn up from carrying the cross and ropes that have burned your skin.

 

And then the worst of all, the big heavy spikes driven through the nerves, the bones, the skin, ripped apart, and You – did You cry out, or were You silent like a lamb going to the slaughter?

My precious Jesus.

My only Jesus.

What pain equals his pain? We are upset when our skin gets dry from theNew Mexicosun and it cracks open around our fingertips and it hurts a lot. We get paper cuts and are angry. But his pain – is not because He made a mistake, it is because He made a decision. In the covenant, blood is what seals the agreement between God andMan.It is the best that we can do. But for our fallen souls to be rescued from the mire of sin that sucks at us like quicksand and tries to pull us back, back, back away from the white light of Mount Tabor and Jesus’ transfiguration, for us to be delivered and be given the strength of divine grace to resist that horrible pull and to break free of it –

 

His pain then is the pain of the lover dying for the beloved, and unfortunately in the case of many baptized Christians today, dying for a beloved who does not even know that they are loved, and does not understand that this day of days is their day. As we move away from our Christian roots, as we ourselves are distracted, we forget the enormity of what our sweet Jesus did, and what it should mean for us.

 

Catechism 603: in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”406 Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all”, so that we might be “reconciled to God by the death of his Son”. So, in that cry that often confuses us, it is not a cry of despair – read psalm 22 in the bibles in the pews and you will see that while it talks about the passion very clearly,

 

a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display; 
people stare and gloat over me.
 
18 They divide my clothes among them 
and cast lots for my garment.

Direct reference to what my dear Jesus has been suffering today on the cross!! But, listen to this: It changes

He/ God/ has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

And that’s what Mary the Mother of God and young loving St John at the foot of the Cross, and Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Salome, Joseph of Arimathea – a tiny little group, a faithful remnant – that’s the part that they know from their lives as devout Jews, but also the part that they don’t know about. Because when the disaster ends and he is dead, and the soldier runs the spear in and rips apart the cavity around Jesus’ heart and his most precious blood and life-giving water come gushing out of the wound, gushing out St John says, in a final defiance of natural law, a final miracle – they really do not know if the Father has listened to the cry for help. And here is the closing verse of the psalm that applies directly to us living now:

Men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people not yet born.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

And the thief said to Him, remember me, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom. Luke 23:42  this is the prayer that we who worship in the Byzantine Catholic Church say at every service when Holy Communion is given, and we say it three times, for each Person of the Trinity: remember me  O Lord, O Master, O holy one. So, we say it with fullness of faith, fullness of revelation of the gospel of Christ and the teachings of Christ through our Catholic faith, but on the14th of Nisan, the thief dying in agony, watching Jesus’ agony as the innocent lamb who is suffering, who the thief himself says, this man has done nothing wrong, could say it with blind faith.

 

We are taught in the letter to the Romans in 6:4 that we are buried with Christ in baptism, so that we might walk in newness of life. When we came back into the church, we bowed beneath the shroud, we had to stoop down to get back inside, and thus we enter the tomb. The tomb of Christ – the tomb in which we are invited to die.

So, tonight and tomorrow for our meditations:

Sit facing the tomb – with fullness of faith – ask Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to lead us forward from our sins and bad habits.

Die. Die to anything that holds us back, ask Christ to help us put it to rest in this grave tonight, and leave it here.

Embrace the Cross– in each generation, we are invited to suffer with Him and by spiritually uniting our own pain and suffering to His awesome sacrifice on the 14th day of Nisan,St Paul tells us in Col 1:24 that we help to complete the redemption of each generation. Americans do not want pain. Watch the commercials on television. We avoid it. But it is not only part of the fallen world, it is an opportunity in which to be saved from our sins, and to help others thru the power of Jesus’ precious blood poured out on that cross and gushing out of his side. Make a resolution tonight to embrace the difficulties that come our way – from major illness to being stuck in traffic – and unite them each time consciously to this life-saving cross, to this event we have been partaking in.

God’s will. Jesus in his humanity had to conform himself fully to the will of the father, to the mission of salvation, and so when he saw the filth of sin in the garden of gethsemane, when he saw the pain that he would endure, he also saw the billions of souls in need of being saved, and so he united himself fully to God’s will and he does this out of the last point to ponder at the tomb:

Love. He would willingly endure this for each and every of the billions of human souls which have lived, are living, and will live, over and over for each, so great is his love for us. now tonight at this tomb, die to selfishness and live to embrace his love, and start to love other people with the same completely accepting radical selfless love of Christ Jesus, of the Holy Trinity itself, of the three Persons bound by love.

So tonight: die to sin. Embrace the cross of Jesus through the things that come to us in daily life. Accept God’s will. Love one another in a radical way, giving up thought of self and loving so as to be like God. And then, when we get to Pentecost in 50 days, we will be ready for the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. Do not delay – let us embrace Jesus’ wounds tonight and through those wounds, begin a new journey of being saved.


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