Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Reflection

Below is the reflection I gave immediately preceding the Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Baton Rouge on Good Friday:

“It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses and crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

As we come to pray these Stations of the Cross, we step back from the normal activities of our daily lives and walk with the Lord Jesus in His suffering and death. We accompany Him Who accompanies us at every moment and see in His Passion the revelation of God’s love for us and His desire to heal our wounds.

In the petitions from Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours we encounter today a beautiful prayer: “Christ our Savior, on the cross you embraced all time with your outstretched arms, unite God’s scattered children in your kingdom of salvation.” With arms outstretched He embraced all time.

Sometimes it can be hard for us to remember that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. We can tend to focus on one more than the other, but this beautiful prayer reminds us that while Jesus was suffering as a man on the Cross, He was still acting as God in calling to mind all of creation history. And not just on the Cross did He do this, but all throughout His life – and especially during the sufferings of His Passion and Death.

With every false word uttered against Him at His trial, Jesus looked all throughout history to those who suffered persecution and injustice. And looking at them, He poured forth the grace to be persecuted not alone, but in union with Him. As Jesus was beaten and scourged by the Roman guards, He looked all through history to those who suffered abuse and chastisement. And looking at them, He enabled them to hope in a better time to come. With every step that he took on the way to Calvary, he saw those who work and toil only to come up short and He offers the gift of a heavenly riches. Every time Christ fell to the ground under the weight of the Cross and yet rose again to continue the journey, He looked upon those whose sins are such a heavy burden and gives the grace of courage and perseverance to journey in the path of holiness. And as He reached the top of that Blessed Hill, stripped of His clothes, His companions, and His glory, He stretched out His arms and offered Himself up on the Altar of the Cross so that all of us, while we were and are still sinners, might be redeemed and able to enter into that Heavenly Banquet that awaits the righteous.

All of this is done out of absolute love for us, as a whole and as individuals. As those sacred arms were stretched out and nailed to the Cross, the Lord redeemed all of humanity, but He also redeemed all of our lives – each one individually, purposefully, lovingly.

It is part of the human condition to suffer, but that does not mean that the Lord desires us to suffer. Rather, He seeks to have that suffering healed and redeemed. Let us reflect for a moment on the person of the Good Samaritan who encounters the man beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. The Good Samaritan is one who encounters a person to whom he has no obligations, to whom he has no connection, and yet out of love for the injured one, he takes the man, washes him off and binds up his wounds, carries him to an inn and pays the prices for the man to stay there to heal. Is this not a sign of what Jesus himself did for us on the Cross? Did He not look upon us, to whom He had not true obligation to offer Himself up, and out of love reach out to us to heal the wounds of our souls? So often we are like that man left for dead. Each of us has suffered wounds in our life. Maybe they was inflicted on us by someone else. Maybe it was a wound of rejection or of a misunderstanding. Maybe it was a wound of our apparent unworthiness or some wound that inflict upon ourselves. In the end, each of us has something in our heart, something in our soul, that longs for the Lord to reach out and bind it up with His healing touch.

As we pray these Stations of the Cross, contemplating the great suffering of Our Lord and the incredible gift of love He offers, let us also open our hearts to Him. Let us pray that the Precious Blood of Jesus, which poured forth from His many wounds, would wash our souls clean and heal us of the afflictions which we suffer.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ to heal those of our souls. Amen.