April 19, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

It is by Christ’s wounds that we are healed

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain, like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted, but he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Is 53:3-5).

Today is Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday.) Today, the Church invites us to walk with Jesus on the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, and to stand before him as witnesses to the intense, undeserved suffering he experienced in atonement for our sins.

This year, the Via Crucis has been especially long and painful. The revelations of scandal and cover-up that were made beginning last summer have deeply wounded our Church, the body of Christ. Standing before the crucified Christ today, we are more keenly aware than ever of the ways in which we as individuals, and the Church as an institution, have contributed to our Lord’s passion and death.

This year, those of us who are called to serve as shepherds are especially mindful of our failures to lead and protect the most vulnerable members of God’s family. Standing before the cross today, we can only beg the Lord’s forgiveness in the words of Dismas, who tradition identifies as one of two thieves crucified with Jesus: “We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing” (Lk 23:41).

Jesus did nothing to deserve the unjust sentence he received or the mocking, scourging and cruel capital punishment that he was forced to endure. He did it for our sakes, to redeem us from slavery to sin, and to “make us whole” again in spite of the gaping wounds caused by our selfishness and sin.

Every Good Friday is a day of mourning and penance that leads directly to the joy of Easter. This year is no different.

As men and women who inherited the original sin of our first parents and who ourselves have sinned, we must acknowledge and confess our faults while seeking God’s forgiveness and promising to change our sinful ways. The good news today, and every day, is that the Lord has forgiven us. He has redeemed us and set us free.

All of us sinners must observe Good Friday in genuine sorrow and repentance. To approach the Cross of Christ today in a half-hearted or superficial way only inflicts new wounds on the body of Christ, which is us. Sincere repentance and authentic conversion are called for—now more than ever.

Easter joy will follow. The crucified Christ will rise from the dead, and those who have remained with him at the foot of the cross will be the first to experience the wonder and the gladness of the new life his death has gained for us.

By his wounds we were healed, the prophet Isaiah tells us in today’s first reading (Is 53:3-5). What a paradox! We who contributed personally, and as a community, to the grave wounds inflicted on this innocent man, God’s only Son, are the undeserving beneficiaries of his self-sacrifice, his obedience to his Father’s will.

As a result, Good Friday is a day of both sorrow and joy, of both deep despair and the most profound hope imaginable. We rejoice in the cross of Christ because it is the gateway to our liberation, the source of our inexpressible joy.

During the Easter Vigil tomorrow evening, we will sing in the “Easter Proclamation” (“Exultet”) of the “happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer.” We will revel in “the sanctifying power of this night” which “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.”

This year, we recall grave sins that cause us to be sorrowful and repentant. But precisely for that reason, we are also called to “Be glad, let Earth be glad as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the Earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.”

During this Easter Triduum, let’s be sorrowful and seek repentance, but let’s also give joyful thanks to God for his forgiveness, saving grace and abiding love! Happy Easter! †

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