We are all in this journey together you know, this journey this pilgrim Church makes over these three days. When we come here today, we’re not coming just to “attend,” or “watch,” like spectators that may have lined the road to Calvary watching Jesus carry the cross. We are not here like the Pharisees and Scribes who stood by with taunts of “if he can save others, let’s see him save himself.” No, that’s not us. We are here because we are part and parcel of Christ and His Cross. We are here not for the history, but to enter into the mystery. When we were baptized, we were baptized into his death, as Saint Paul tells us. Last night, we heard in Corinthians, Jesus tells his disciples, and us, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Memory, according to Hebrew teaching, has a deeper meaning than “whenever you lift the cup, think of me.” No, what Jesus is saying, whenever you drink my blood, you will join me. You become part of his passion, death and resurrection. So we do.
What do we hear in the passion story today? We hear of a tidal wave of sin. Starting with the greed and lies of Judas, we hear of nothing but anger, fear, pride, denial, poor judgment, brutality. There is nothing good that happens here at all. Sin rises up with a great roar and casts itself as a cross, the cross that Christ will suffer and die upon. The cross he chose to die upon, so that we may be free of the very sin that killed him. Those are our sins on that cross, in those wounds, in that horrible, painful death. Christ’s suffering is our suffering, when you look at the cross, when you come forward to venerate the cross, that is your pain you’re looking at. Your pain. Pain taken up for you by the One who did not need to take it up at all. As Isaiah said in the song of the Suffering Servant which we heard minutes ago, “Because of his affliction, we shall see the light in fullness of days, through his suffering my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he should bear.” We hear this again in Hebrews: “We do not have a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been similarly tested in every way, without sin.” You have nothing to prove to God, you have nothing to earn. You simply make the choice of obedience, the choice to freely bring your cross to His and join your Cross to his. Jesus Christ, son of the living God have mercy on me a sinner.
You bring your sins forward now, so that when this journey is complete, you may rise again not as a sinner, but as one who’s life is joined to the love of Christ and the freedom that love offers.
If you stop, and be still, and think about this, it is nothing short of incredible. The ultimate source of life, the God who made us, knows us and loves us, acting out of that pure, humbling love, took your pain to him so you can someday be free of it. If you do nothing else today, do that. Think about that. Bring that with you to the cross. Thank him for it.
We are all really pilgrims in this life. We are heading home to the Father who truly loves us, on a direct route made possible by the Cross of the Son. Like pilgrims, we travel at different paces, and much like the Israelites of Exodus or of the Babylonian Captivity, we wander off the road. But we can always find our way back, thanks to Christ and his presence through the Holy Spirit in the Church. Look at the disciples in today’s reading, or better yet, where are the disciples in today’s reading. But as we follow this journey through the days to come, look where they end up. That can be us, too.
The love we receive in our baptism and confirmation gives us supplies for the journey, love we can draw on in times of need. When we stumble and fall and become bruised and we’re limping, we can draw on the healing power of Reconciliation. And we receive food for the journey through The Eucharist. Christ joins us, by joining us to what we recall these three days. His suffering, death and resurrection. We do this in memory of him, we walk with the cross, suffer the pain. But ultimately, we will rise again filled with his glory, free from all that beats us down as we head through this live. We live in the faith we have in the Father, son and Holy Spirit, we act in charity by loving him as we love and help each other, and we have the hope of the Suffering Servant: “Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicker; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”
We have a day today when we can rest, we can look upon the cross, and we can be still in the presence of the one who cleared the way for us. We can ask forgiveness and mercy of him, which he will freely accept, and we can thank him by worshiping him through the love he gives us to share with those about us. It truly is a good Friday.