April 10, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Jesus shows his love in his sacrifice for us

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Yet 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, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed” (Is 53:4-5).

Good Friday is an unusual day in the Church year. It is a day of great sadness, commemorating the day when our Lord suffered and died for us. But it is also a day for rejoicing, the day when we recall how much Jesus loved us and how much he sacrificed to set us free.

Good Friday is a day of mourning and it is a day of silence, but it is also the day when the Light of the World shatters the darkness of sin and death.

On Good Friday, the sun breaks through, opening up our dark and dreary world to the joyful light of heaven. The silence of Good Friday prepares us for the joyful songs of the Easter Vigil—the Exultet and the Great Alleluia that proclaim Christ’s victory over sin and death.

Good Friday celebrates the triumph of humility over self-centered pride. As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9):

“In the days when Christ was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”
(Heb 5:7-9).

In the ultimate act of humility, Jesus freely accepted death on a cross—one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment ever invented—in order to sacrifice his life for us.

Good Friday is the day when we rejoice in the humility of God. It is the day when the Church reminds us that the freedom, the love and the happiness that every human being seeks is made possible only through the miracle of self-giving love.

The Son of God did not have to empty himself to accept the bitter pain and torture of Good Friday, or to die the death of a criminal.

What we recall today is Jesus’ free decision to suffer and die for our sins—in spite of his very human desire to avoid this suffering and humiliation. It is a painful memory that should cause each of us to feel remorse for our part in this day of sadness—for our contributions to the burden of sin that our Lord carried on his shoulders as he made his way to his crucifixion.

But the paradox of Good Friday is that the Via Dolorosa is not a dead end. Instead, it is a road that opens the way to salvation and to joy. And so, without ever forgetting the bitter tears that were shed on this day by Mary, and by those few who loved him enough to stand by him at the foot of the cross, we rejoice and thank God for the great gift of this day of remembrance and of joy.

Jesus’ humility, his sacrifice on the cross, has something profoundly important to teach us. The way to happiness is the Way of the Cross. That means that we will never find true happiness by seeking wealth, power, success or fame. We will never discover the freedom and love we desire if we dedicate ourselves to our own comfort and satisfaction. Jesus’ humility teaches us that true love is found in sacrifice and that true happiness comes not when we cling to life’s blessings and comforts but when we share them generously with others.

Good Friday gives us the opportunity to rejoice in spite of our sadness, and to praise God for his Son’s humility and for the great gift of his self-giving love, even as we mourn his cruel and utterly undeserving condemnation and death on a cross.

Good Friday celebrates the humility of God that paradoxically (by our earthly standards) has exalted the name of Jesus Christ above all other names—so that at this name every knee should bend and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father!

May we always remember Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, which has won our salvation and shown us the way to happiness and peace. May his cruel, undeserved suffering, and our songs of bitter mourning, lead us to Easter joy and prepare us to sing once again: Alleluia! Christ is risen! †

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