‘Good Friday’. It’s a strange name for the day on which Christ died. How can it be “good”?
Without the Cross, there can be no Resurrection; without the Cross, there is no salvation – by that Cross, we are redeemed. This was the way chosen by God for our salvation. Jesus, truly God and truly Man, submitted Himself to the will of the Eternal Father and embraced His Cross willingly for our sake. And so today, at Catholic Churches across the world, Catholics will remember this supreme gift of love and will venerate the Wood of the Cross, having listened to the reading of the Passion of Christ from the Gospel.
On the Way of the Cross, two people came to the aid of Jesus – one was Veronica and the other was Simon of Cyrene. Veronica approached Christ willingly, wanting to console Him even a little by wiping His Face; and in doing so, her veil was imprinted with the holy Countenance of the Lord. Simon, on the other hand, seems to have been forced to move toward the Lord and to help Him carry the Cross. Despite his apparent unwillingness, this was a singular honour – who knows how Simon looked back upon this in later days and years, or what effect his participation had on him. But perhaps thinking about this tells us something about life – all of us, in one way or another, will have our part to play in carrying our own crosses. Willingly or unwillingly, suffering will touch all of us in some way. Such is the way of human life. Such was the way for the Lord.
Our sufferings, on their own, are nothing more than that. But united to the sufferings of Christ in His holy Passion, they take on an immense value, the value of Christ Himself. Our model in this is the Most Blessed Virgin, the Mother of the Lord.
Accompanying Her Son on the way to Calvary, there was nothing She could do other than watch His suffering and share deeply in it – and this, She did perfectly. And so, in this hour the prophecy of Simeon to Mary, made so long ago on the day of the Presentation, was fulfilled – ‘a sword shall pierce Your own Heart’. Over the centuries, many Saints and Popes have spoken at length about the suffering of the Mother of Jesus as She watched Him ascend to Calvary, there to suffer and die for all of us. We recall this throughout the Stations of the Cross when we intone the ‘Stabat Mater‘ –
At the Cross her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to Her Son to the last..
Through Her Heart, His sorrow sharing, all His bitter anguish bearing, now at length the sword has passed..
Holy Mother! pierce me through, in my heart each wound renew of my Savior crucified:
Let me share with thee His pain, who for all my sins was slain, who for me in torments died.
In this great Jubilee of Mercy, perhaps we can spare a moment to think of all those who are suffering in any way, and to offer whatever help or assistance we can, whether in deed, word or prayer. As we hear in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, this is the new commandment – ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’. This is mercy in action.
In these dark days, so filled with the blood of new Martyrs, perhaps we can think in a special way of all those who suffer on account of their faith, asking the Lord to bless and sustain them in faith and in the sure hope of the Resurrection, and asking the Most Blessed Virgin to obtain for them every grace from Her Son, the Crucified Lord.
Perhaps, too, we can offer a prayer in atonement for our own sins of whatever kind, acknowledging our human frailty before the Cross, and mindful that it is on account of our sins that the Lord is crucified today.
BEHOLD, O good and sweetest Jesus, I cast myself upon my knees in Thy sight, and with the most fervent desire of my soul I pray and beseech Thee to impress upon my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, with true repentance for my sins and a most firm desire of amendment; whilst with deep affection and grief of soul I consider within myself and mentally contemplate Thy five most precious Wounds, having before mine eyes that which David, the prophet, long ago spoke in Thine Own person concerning Thee, my Jesus: ‘They have pierced My hands and My feet, they have numbered all My bones’.