We live in a time where our conception of reality is based upon our experience of things given to us by a secondary means that we trust given no solid personal relationship. Think about it, we get our news, our food, our clothing, our entertainment, and many of the things that we use everyday from some source we can’t tell you a lot about. We like things pre-packaged, self contained, sterile, and easy to dispense of. We don’t like things messy, difficult, or inconvenient. Insert today, Good Friday, into 21st century Americanism and it is anything but GOOD.
However, even the great tragedy of our Lord’s Passion, His way of the cross where he suffered immense physical violence—ultimately ending with his death by crucifixion is captured for us in artistically rendered placards we call stations, these even offer us only a manicured depiction of what we know through Scripture and Tradition. At the end of the day, It’s just easier to be removed from the real pain of knowing God is dead and I killed Him, that’s bad enough don’t show me what that actually looked like. But for any of us who have ever seen Mel Gibson’s the Passion of Christ we have had to deal with the horror of what we commemorate this fateful Friday in the first century. We wear it around our neck, we hang it in our homes, but how often do we ponder the full reality of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Josepheus a Jewish historian who was almost a contemporary of our Lord’s called crucifixion “the most wretched of all deaths.” This had much to do with the Roman’s style of beating that we capture when we pray the second sorrowful the mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar. Josepheus describes the results of this torture in a specific occasion as he recalls, “They had him scourged until his entrails were visible…He was dismissed, all covered in blood, a spectacle that struck terror in all who saw.” At this point he is given the instrument of his own death to carry himself slightly over the distance of a football field to his eventual place of perishing. At Calvary, Jesus would die a death that was known to be the most shameful penalty, reserved for slaves by the Romans, to show to the world that this person meant nothing to nobody. Jesus born to a homeless family in Bethlehem dies a poor man in Jerusalem.
Yet what makes this act of God in His Son Jesus Christ unlike anything else in the course of human history is not the brutality He endured, or the strength He manifested but the love He embodied. The Catechism says this about the Cross… “It is love to the end that confers on Christ’s sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life for our sake.”
Tonight, is the one time every year, where we are given the opportunity to experience firsthand the power of Christ’s crucifixion. We heard the Scripture, we know our crucifix now cloaked in the black cloth of death and just momentarily we will each have our individual time to venerate the image of death that we know to be the greatest witness of love. I invite you as you come forward to kiss or reverence the crucifix to really enter into the experience—to embrace the suffering and sacrifice of our Savior, to feel the raw power of His love for you and me, we who nailed Him to the wood by our sins, and He the willing victim who knows our brokenness and loves us anyways. It is our God who calls this day ‘Good’ because it is today His life is given so that in our lives we might always know from the source of the wounds on His body, that you and I are His beloved.