Good Friday, 21 March 2008

St Mary’s Cathedral

Near the Cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, Woman, this is your son. Then to the disciple he said, this is your mother. …..After this Jesus knew that everything had been completed…

The weakened dying Jesus, the grieving faithful Mary, the young horror-struck John. What a powerful image for us to contemplate this afternoon in our solemn liturgy of Good Friday. Jesus breathes his last and expires his Spirit into the world pouring forth his precious blood and cleansing water from his side. Mary stands at the foot of the cross suffering in her very soul at each rasping breath of her only son. John looks on in numbed-shock as his beloved hero enters his death agony.

Surely there can be no bleaker, darker picture. Ah, but you say, they knew he was to rise again. This wasn’t the end. Did they? There is no evidence that either Mary or John had any inkling of this. Mary had given birth to Jesus. The angel had told her that he was to be the one who would save his people from their sins. That is what the name “Jesus” means. He was born under mysterious circumstances, by the power of God’s Spirit. For many years he lived just like any other boy, subject to his parents. He had taken on his foster father’s trade. It was only then that he began a career as a preacher and teacher.

Still she trusted, still she accepted that God’s will would be done in and through her son. She had seen him perform great miracles, even raise people from the dead. Yet here he was racked in agony, dying a terrible death, a death fit only for the vilest of criminals.

Mary’s faith was being tested to the limit. Her trust in God was being taken to the very edge. Yet she still believed, she still hoped, she still loved. She remained at the side of Jesus. She could do no other. Even though all this went beyond her understanding, still she bowed to the will of the Father.

John also was being tested to the utmost. He was a young, impressionable man and there was a strong bond between him and the master, a real deep friendship. He hero-worshipped Jesus and yet here he was helpless, weak and dying like a criminal. This surely couldn’t be the end of the adventure which had started off so well.

Yet, this is the moment of triumph; this is the moment of victory. In the darkness of Calvary is the dawning of a light that nothing will ever obliterate. In Christ’s dying on the cross we witness the birth pangs of new life. In Christ’s breathing out his last breath, the same Spirit that went forth at creation is once more breathed over the darkness and chaos of our world and brings forth new order. From the side of Christ on the cross comes cleansing water and his very life blood – the gateway to the new life of Baptism and the source of all our sacramental life. Here in the apparent end of Christ’s life we see the beginning of the Church – Mary and John gathered together by Christ who gives his life for them.

There are times in our lives when we feel abandoned, orphaned, alone. There are moments when we feel we have reached the end of our tether. Our believing and trusting seems to have all been in vain. Surely Mary at the foot of the cross can understand where we are, where we are coming from? She knows because she has been there. Yet she kept faith, she stood her ground, she remained faithful to what she knew God had promised. Thus she is the faithful virgin, the sorrowful Mother who through faith, hope and love becomes the Mother of Joy, the Mother of new Life, Mary of the Resurrection.

John too is faithful; he remains at the foot of the Cross, close to Jesus and Mary. Why? We do not really know. Surely, though, it was because he loved the Lord and there was nowhere else to go. Perhaps he was so shocked and numbed that he was unable to think or move. Whatever, he stayed; he remained and is known as the beloved disciple, the one who looked after the Mother of the Lord.

What are we going to do, where are we going to stand? I pray for all of us that we remain faithful, that we stand with Mary and John at the foot of the Cross. Like John, may we be known as beloved disciples; like Mary may we, through our faith, hope and love, be filled with joy and the new life of the resurrection.

All powerful Father
you chose the Paschal mystery as the way of our salvation;
grant that we, whom Jesus entrusted from the cross to his Virgin Mother,
may be numbered among your adopted children
Amen.

(Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary – The Commending of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

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