Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord
Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9
The Good Friday Liturgy is rich in images. Nevertheless, the liturgy is carried out in a very stark environment. There is no Eucharist, decorations are removed, the altar is stripped, the celebrant and servers enter in silence, and the prayers are simple. The Cross is to be the center of our attention today; everything else is a distraction and therefore located out-of-the-sight.
Paul the Apostle tells us that Jesus emptied himself. He emptied himself of all self-centeredness, of all resentment, fear, fretfulness, and the desire for respect in the sight of others (First Reading). In letting go of everything, Jesus would be filled with the gift of fidelity and love from his heavenly Father. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, says, "Jesus took away the sin of the community by taking in hatred and giving back love; by taking in anger and giving out graciousness; by taking in envy and giving back blessing; by taking in bitterness and giving out warmth; by taking in pettiness and giving back compassion; by taking in chaos and giving back peace; and by taking in sin and giving back forgiveness." In order to be this conduit of the Father’s love and forgiveness, Jesus had to continually empty himself of the natural tendency to give back in kind: hatred for hatred, revenge for hurt, and coldness when ignored or neglected.
St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist Community, began many of his letters by writing: "May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ be always in our hearts." Both the Good Friday Liturgy and Paul of the Cross want us to remember the passion and death of Christ as the greatest act of God’s love for us. God can be trusted and Christ can be confidently approached in our own moment of darkness and temptation. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin" (Second Reading)
Now we are asked to do as Jesus did to help take away the sin of the world. We are asked to let go, to empty ourselves of darkness, so that we can receive and give back divine compassion, unmerited forgiveness, holy love, ceaseless blessing and a spirit of everlasting hope.
On this Good Friday, let us set aside the distractions in our hearts (fears, desires, ambitions, worries, deadlines, dreams) so that the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Cross) will be at the center of our hearts. This is the way that leads us to joy, new life and resurrection. "I live, no not I, but Christ lives in me."
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.