Sunday, April 27, 2014

Good Friday and a Fountain of Mercy for Us.

The following is a meditation that came to me during the Veneration of the Cross at the Good Friday service. It is a meditation in which I find myself with a group of the Baptized on a night of spiritual darkness, following the angry mob through the Way of the Cross. The Reader may or may not be a part of this 'we', but please pray for those of us who are, especially on this Divine Mercy Sunday!

The crowd, some of whom had been followers of Jesus, were now an angry mob. They had expected the Messiah to come with power. Jesus was falsely accused. And when he refused to speak any words to defend himself or even explain the things he had taught, the crowd became indignant. As he was tortured and mocked, they felt humiliated for having believed in him--the Scandal of the Cross. As Pilate sarcastically referred to Jesus as their king, they could endure the humiliation no longer. They turned on him and a vicious mob mentality took over. Jesus refused to be the Messiah they had longed for and so they rejected him.

In moments of darkness we are no different from them. Claiming to be followers of Jesus we are disillusioned, thinking in our hearts: "You are not who I thought you would be. Things are so much different than I thought they would be, than I wanted them to be." We want Jesus to be something that he is not. We want him to prevent evil from existing in this world. We face suffering with indignation. There are things that we thought he would give us. Some of them we still lack. At times we reflect on the Pentecost narrative with bitterness in our hearts because we remain cowardly. We covet the graces that were poured out upon the early Church as if God has long since abandoned us. But perhaps it's our own fault. "He did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith."

We look back at the way things used to be and we stray from the Way of the Cross. We no longer want to be like the Suffering Servant. We worship false gods and play the harlot. We thought things would be so much different now, and yet so often everything seems the same. "I wanted to be a Saint. I wanted to be out saving the world." We become restless in our faith. "I want a sword. Push me out into the Colosseum. Anything other than this ennui that's slowly crushing the life out of the world. I wanted to be a missionary, but they sent me to the Secretariat of State. I wanted to be poor like Saint Francis, live in rags, love God, beg for crusts. […] I get an apartment and a salary." (Father Elijah, by Michael O'Brien; p 50)

We turn our backs on Jesus and feel like we are the ones who have been betrayed.  "I gave you my life. Your will not mine, Lord." When we gave our allegiance to the Lord we did not think that he would waste it. "He has left me by the wayside. Discarded me like rubbish…."

We are spiritually blind and do not see the glory of the true battle. "The deadliest part of the battle is hidden. Some of it is above our heads in the heavenly realms where the righteous battle against demons. But there is much unseen warfare on earth." (Father Elijah, by Michael O'Brien; p 49)

In times of consolation we have believed wholeheartedly in the supreme value of abandonment to Divine Providence. And yet now the simplicity of the message and the Scandal of the Cross are humiliations that almost cannot be endured. Without realizing it, we reject the True Messiah because we want a Messiah of our own making. We want his kingdom to be of this world, and we end up worshipping the Golden Calf. In these times of darkness we are somehow united, through sin, with the vicious mob shouting "Crucify him!"

But then we look at Jesus tormented and dying on the Cross, Jesus who has already given so much. He has given us life and freedom from slavery to sin. He became perfect through what he suffered. Through obedience to God the Father he destroys death and opens the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. He does all of this in what seems to the world an unremarkable and even shameful way. And he is despised and rejected for it.

Once he has been give up to death, we and some of the members of that crowd see that "truly, this was the Son of God." But now it's too late. We have broken our covenant and are no longer in full communion with God. Together with those members of the crowd we look with horror upon our sins. Some of us believe what he said, that death will be defeated and he will be raised up on the third day. But we wonder if it is too late for us. 

Oh my Jesus, I have betrayed you. I have crucified you in my heart and I am blinded by the stain of my sin. You are gone. Jesus is dead.

Dear Crucified Jesus, let me kiss your feet and wash them with my tears. Show me how to surrender to the Will of the Father. Help me die to myself and live in you.

"Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?" The Good Shepherd will seek and restore even one lost sheep. "Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld." He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Oh Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in you.