52:13-53: 12; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 13:1-19: 42
Today comes down to two words: Pascal Mystery. The Pascal Mystery is the dying and rising of Jesus Christ. Tonight we are confronted with the death of the Lord. We identify with his disciples, scattered in fear. To them, all was lost. To them, death had conquered. They could not see beyond this. What about you? What about me? We have all suffered losses. We have suffered losses in our personal lives and in civilization itself: wars, atrocities, terrorist attacks, diseases, tornadoes, tsunamis, scandals in our nation and in our church. Horrific things happen. This week’s ‘horror’ shook the people of France, the French Church, and the Western World itself. The values of the West have been under assault since before the end of the last century, the values of the West, yes, including the life of faith.
In the face of these assaults and losses, we can feel helpless. Who could not feel helpless watching Notre Dame burn? “How can this be,” we ask? “How could God let this happen?” – the question we ask when catastrophic events occur. Today challenges us. Do we believe that there is life beyond catastrophic loss? Do we believe that there is life beyond death, beyond the grave? That is the wrenching question presented by this Friday we call Good. Why do we call it Good? St. Andrew of Crete gives us the answer. He says: “Christ entered the dark regions of our world to raise us up again.” Life beyond death springs from Christ’s blood. As I said last night: the blood on the Passover doorpost, when we drink it, makes of our lips the doorpost of our souls. We long to drink his blood tomorrow night so we will be saved from that angel of death passing by. It is this hope to which we cling. When we are helpless, Christ’s blood renews us. That is precisely why we call this frightening week Holy and this Friday, Good.
Whatever pain, whatever hardship, whatever heartache, whatever disappointment we carry is a participation in the suffering and dying of Christ. Pope St. Leo the Great says: “The body that lay lifeless in the tomb is ours.” Christ died in the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Monday, a frightening beginning to this week we call Holy. Yet he was also present there, alive in his image apparently appearing amidst the flames, and truly alive in the Blessed Sacrament, saved along with his Crown of Thorns. The French nation and the French Church asked: “Why” and “Why this week”? All Western civilization seemed about to be lost. Yet we already glimpse an answer; we glimpse a rising. Remember, to the Apostles all seemed lost. Even to Christ hanging on the cross, all seemed lost, crying out to his Father, thinking he had been abandoned. But then came the rising. What a surprise! The rising part of the Pascal Mystery we celebrate tomorrow evening. Today we remain with the death of the Lord. Later in this liturgy, as you come forward to venerate the cross and the body of Christ crucified, leave before the foot of the Cross whatever loss or hurt that you or a loved one has. It is there you meet the death of the Lord. Leave it with his death. Today we hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts. We await his rising. Today, tonight is a time of preparation. A spiritual writer from the Eastern Church says: “In order to experience the full power of Pascal rejoicing, each of us needs to pass through a time of preparation.” Tonight we remain with Christ, dead for us. Tonight we receive his Body. Tomorrow night, we await his Blood, his Passover blood on our lips, the doorpost of our souls. By his Body and his Blood, we know that, whatever befalls us, we are saved. That’s Good Friday.