Good Friday Services, Prelatic Church of Our Lady of Peace, Rome (March 30, 2018)
The liturgy of Good Friday places us directly in front of the great Christian Mystery of the Cross and the Crucified One.
In the Gospel, we have contemplated how our Lord was taken prisoner, in the Garden of Olives, by the cohort headed by Judas; we have seen how he is led before the high priest Caiaphas and how, after being interrogated, he is struck on the face by one of the soldiers. Then, in the presence of Pilate, the people shout: “Crucify him, crucify him!” (Jn 19:6); and soon afterwards Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns. We can ask ourselves: Why all this? The Gospel continues: Jesus carries the wood of the Cross in the presence of the people he loved; he is stripped of his garments and, apparently, also of his dignity; and, when crucified, our Lord addresses these words to God the Father, recorded by Saint Matthew: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). Again we ask ourselves: why the Cross?
Although we only partly understand it, the Crucifixion reveals to us that where there seems to be only weakness, there God manifests his limitless power; where we see failure, defeat, misunderstanding and hatred, it is there that Jesus reveals to us the great power of God: the power to transform the Cross into an expression of love. This power of faith can be seen in the first and second readings. While Isaiah shows us that face “with no comeliness that we should look at him … despised and rejected by men” (Is 53:2-3), the letter to the Hebrews proclaims that there we find “the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy” (Heb 4:16).
This was the experience of one of those executed with Christ on Golgotha. The “good thief” experiences in his greatest failure and weakness how the Cross of Jesus becomes the powerful place where he knows he is forgiven and loved: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). On the Cross we hear the word “Paradise” spoken.
From an instrument of torture and contempt, the Cross is transformed into a means of salvation, a symbol of hope, since it has become a manifestation of God’s free and merciful Love. This Love becomes present for us—in an eminently effective way—in the sacraments. Let us not fail to have recourse to divine mercy in the sacrament of Confession. Let us do all we can to participate frequently in the Eucharist. It is also in the sacraments that we will see, as Saint Josemaría said, how Christ “hands himself over to death with the full freedom of Love.” To look at the Crucified One is to contemplate our hope.
Pope Francis told young people: “Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope!” Therefore I invite you to experience the transforming power of God’s Love, which on the Cross embraces our weakness and fills us with hope. Making our own the symbol of the Cross means becoming, right where we are, a clear sign of God’s love. In your families, in your friendships and in your future profession you can be a clear sign of hope.
The Church today turns her attention to the Lignum Crucis, the tree of the Cross. In the liturgy we pray: “We worship your Cross, Lord, and praise and glorify your holy Resurrection. Through the wood, joy has come into the world.” The adoration of the Holy Cross is a gesture. of faith and a proclamation of the victory of Jesus. It is also a gesture of hope, which comes from experiencing the transforming power of God’s Love.
We end by asking our Lady to help us to stay close to the Cross, since from there stems the
hope that, as Christians, we want to offer to our contemporaries.
Romana, n. 66, January-June 2018, p. 88-90.