Good Friday, April 10, 2020
The focal point of today’s liturgy is the Cross. I would like us to reflect on 2 keys messages of the Cross.
The 1st message: The Cross is the symbol of perfect love. God’s very essence, his very nature is love. The core of his personhood is love. God can only think, say and do love. God loves us so much that he holds nothing back. He even gives up his Son to death. There is nothing more that God can do to communicate his limitless love for us. He has done it all in Jesus.
Who among us would be willing to give up a child to death for someone else? There is not 1 person, 1 event, 1 circumstance for which I would willingly sacrifice 1 of my 2 sons. I would not do this for a good person, let alone someone who has betrayed or rejected me. We all know that the worse human experience possible is the death of a child. There is no suffering greater than this.
Yet, this is what God willingly does. He freely surrenders his ONLY Son to death. For what reason? For us. This gesture is totally undeserved since, through our sin, we have rejected and betrayed God in so many ways. That’s the extent to which God loves us: by choice, he gives away a Son when we don’t deserve it.
It would be over the top for me to sacrifice a child for you. It would be equally over the top if my child agrees to sacrifice his life for you.
If the desire of the Father not to spare his own Son isn’t mind boggling enough, the Son decides to accept the Father’s plan. In Gethsemane, Jesus chose the Cross. In Gethsemane, Jesus said “yes” to Calvary. The totality of Jesus’ love is revealed by laying down his life for us. Jesus is so other-oriented, so devoted to us, that he is willing to surrender his very life.
That’s the reason for which St. Catherine of Siena referred to God as a “Crazy Lover”. God’s love is so excessive that it appears irrational. Our human minds are too limited to comprehend the depth of such radical love. It is for this reason that we refer to the “Redemption” as a “mystery”.
Our faith is not an abstract notion or a thing. Our faith is a someone – a person who gave himself up to death out of love for us. What a gift, what a blessing we have in the Cross! Although the Passion narrative that has just been proclaimed offers graphic details of violence, suffering, agony and death, today is called “Good” Friday. The Cross truly is “good” news for me, for you and for our world!
The 2nd message of the Cross: Christ has given us an example to follow. Fr. Raymond Farrell, who served as pastor at CKC from 1981-1987, was fond of saying “The Cross is the “I” crossed out; the Cross is the “me” crossed out”. What Fr. Farrell was saying is that, like Jesus, we are to take our eyes off ourselves and put the needs of others ahead of ourselves.
At the end of March, a very public example was given to us about what it means to imitate Jesus’ self-giving love. Fr. Giuseppe Berardelli, a 72-year-old Italian priest, became infected with COVID-19 and was hospitalized. He needed a respirator, but the hospital didn’t have any more. So, his parishioners bought him one. When Fr.Berardelli found out that a younger patient also needed one, he refused to take the respirator and offered it instead to the younger patient, who was a total stranger. As a result, the priest died from the coronavirus. In a moment of personal darkness, this priest took his eyes off himself and put the needs of someone he didn’t even know ahead of his own.
Most of us will not be called upon to make such a drastic sacrifice. But Jesus is inviting us to lay down our lives – whatever that may look like in the unique circumstances of our individual lives.
In our current situation, health care professionals, essential workers, transportation providers, 1st responders, law enforcement, caregivers, volunteers risking their own lives to ensure our health and safety – these are all examples of the “I” crossed out.
Reaching out to another person by mail, telephone, email, text, or virtual connection; showing solidarity with someone’s loneliness or bereavement by leaving a meal, a book or flowers on their doorstep; showing support by volunteering to make masks or deliver food; praying for someone’s family other than our own; praying for another city, province or country other than our own – all these small everyday gestures are examples of the “me” crossed out.
Make no mistake: to be a disciple of the Lord in 2020 is to give one’s life in loving care, concern and compassion to those around us.
Later in this Service, the Adoration of the Holy Cross will take place. When this happens, we are not participating in idol worship; we are not adoring the object made of wood. Rather, we are adoring him who hung on that wood and who shed his blood for us on that wood.
At that moment in our Liturgy, let us offer 2 prayers. First, let us thank God for being a crazy lover. As St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, after the extravagant gift of his Son, there is absolutely nothing – not even a deadly pandemic – that can separate us from the perfect and unending love of God.
Second, let us ask God to help us to be like Jesus – to willingly give of ourselves in selfless service to each other.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
April 10, 2020