Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Greatest Love

By Colleen O'Sullivan

He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.  Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.   (Isaiah 53:3-4)

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.  So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.  (Hebrews 4:15-16)

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.  (John 19:16b-18)

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
(What Wondrous Love Is This, author unknown, American Folk Hymn)

The Crucifixion – Carl Bloch from
Catholic Viral (Creative Commons license)
 For many it was probably just another day in Jerusalem, hot and dry.  It was a Friday.  There were a few crucifixions being carried out as always.  What else could you expect under Roman rule?  But, today Pilate had been importuned by the Jews to have the soldiers make haste at their deadly duty, because the Sabbath would begin at sundown. Again, what else was new?  People died while others went on living and laughing, soldiers casting lots to win an executed man’s few pieces of clothing.

On the other hand, for the family and friends of Jesus gathered at Golgotha, the day was the worst they had ever known.  Wanting to block out the horrible sights and sounds, they remained, nevertheless, out of love.  We contemplate the Crucifixion two millennia later out of that same love and desire to show compassion.

Good Friday isn’t so much about what the scribes and elders or the Romans did to Jesus as it is about what Jesus does for us.  Jesus becomes one of us in every way but sin.  He takes on the human suffering that is just part of life. 

If you were always the last kid in your class to be picked to be on a team in school, Jesus was there with you, sharing your feelings of rejection and dejection.  If your family and friends think you’re crazy for following in Jesus’ footsteps, Jesus has been there, too.  His relatives thought he had lost his mind when he preached.  They drove him away.  Jesus wouldn’t have been on the Cross if he hadn’t been spurned by far more people than just his family in Nazareth.

If you’ve ever been betrayed by your spouse or a close friend, though you may not have realized it at the time, Jesus walked beside you.  One of his inner circle of friends sold him out for a few pieces of silver.  To add insult to injury, Judas did it with a kiss.  Yes, Jesus knows all about the pain of betrayal. 
Jesus knows about the bodily suffering we often experience.  He feels it on the Cross.  He shows it by admitting he’s thirsty hanging there under that hot Jerusalem sky.   If we open the eyes of our hearts, we can picture him sitting by every sick bed in the land. 

Jesus knows about suffering in spirit as well.  He understands when we grieve.  He grieved over Jerusalem, even shed tears over the city.  He wept for his friend Lazarus.  There’s no need ever to grieve alone, because Jesus is always there ready to comfort you.  Jesus also knows what the spiritual desolation we sometimes experience is about.  Here he is doing his Father’s will in emptying himself out for us, and he can’t feel his Abba’s presence.  God is never apart from us, but once in a while, we are unable to feel the Lord beside us.  Jesus calls out to his Father in the words of the psalmist, “Why have you abandoned me?”

The Cross is all about Jesus’ love for us and his solidarity with us in our humanity.  That such a hideous tool of death becomes the ultimate symbol of love and that from such suffering comes the offer of redemption and new life are among the greatest paradoxes of our faith. 


Spend some time today contemplating Jesus on the Cross.  Open your hearts to receive the love offered and offer your own gift of love to Jesus in return.

No comments: