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The Good of Friday Gospel sung

This is the recording of “The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John” being sung.

The recording was made two years ago in Saint Saviour’s Dominican Church, Dublin, Ireland.

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He was crushed for our iniquities

crossA Reading from the Prophet Isaiah:

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; One from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Yet ours were the grief He bore, our sorrows He carried; He was crushed for our iniquities; All of us like sheep have gone astray; But The Righteous One My Servant will justify the many and bear their iniquities.

 

Some of the most dramatic images we have of Mother Teresa reveal a saint who reached out to those truly on society’s fringes in Calcutta – the suffering and destitute. Here was a woman who brought Christ’s love and mercy into the lives of those the world seemed to abandon, transforming lives marred by fear and anguish through disease and extreme poverty.

In seeking to understand the awesome and life-giving reality that is Good Friday – this group of people I have been describing are a very good place to start. For no distant God of ideas or mere rules could speak meaningfully of life, hope and love to those who suffer. Only a God who himself tasted the bitter word and stigma of public shame and rejection could hope to touch the minds and hearts of those who have themsevles suffered so. This is where we begin to glimpse the essence of what Good Friday is – A day when Christ himself entered into the extremes of suffering and death. A day, when God assured us that His love and mercy knows no limits, no boundaries, but rather, seeks to reach out and save a suffering humanity even amidst the very depths of pain or sin.

The great Swiss theologian Von Balthasar wonderfully saw in the Cross, an act of love so great, it is beyond anything humanity could ever have imagined. This was the work of a God who – out of love – had already sent his only Son, at the Incarnation, all the way into the depths of our humanity. Jesus’s own earthly life speaks to us of a divine love which sought always to reach out into the depths of human existence, most especially towards those on the fringes. For Jesus searched out the God-forsaken.

A Friend of Tax-collectors and sinners, Jesus’ response to the pride and righteousness of the Pharisees in Luke’s Gospel, gives us a vivid insight into His mission of love and redemption – for he tells us that he comes “for those in need of a physician – sinners in need of repentance.” The lost, the sick, the suffering – it is such people that Jesus found, healed and restored.

So why did Jesus, God-made-man, seek out the fringes, and those in the extremes of sin and suffering? Our lives show us that both sin and suffering are inevitable human realities – for the atheist as much as for the saint. We can surely recognise the meaningfulness of a suffering God for those who themselves physically suffer. In reality, however, it is sin which makes us suffer most – it is sin alone which possesses the power to push any of us to the true fringes of existence.

For in wilfully turning away from our true good – that is, following Christ and His example, we ourselves bear a stigma that burdens the heart and mind. It is sin which darkens our own horizons, diminishing us far more than any poverty or physical disease ever could. Our goal, our earthly journey towards Truth, Goodness, Beauty and love itself, is blocked and ends in death, only through sin. The great mystery of God’s redemption, however, is that, it is the utter tragedy of such sin, man’s felix culpa, which drew down, our divine physician.

This is what brings us back to that First Good-Friday. For on that day, we saw most clearly, upon the Cross, and in that passion evoked so eloquently by the Prophet Isaiah, the unimaginable depths that God’s love will descend to in order to reach the sinner. In the extremities of evil, sin and death which Christ embraced and conquered on that day, we truly witness the value even the lowliest sinner possesses in God’s eyes. For it is the immensity of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness for each and every one of us, that drew Christ to the Cross that fateful day.

The most awesome reality this Good Friday, and indeed every day, is that such love and forgiveness -the full power of Christ Himself is still flowing, through that Church He instigated. The forgiveness and promise of paradise, offered to the repentant thief, in those final moments upon the Cross, is ours now- active with no less force- in the boundless mercy of Confession.

That divine Body – love, truth and goodness itself – given freely upon the Cross, is still offered each day for us- upon the Eucharistic altar. So we see that passion, that divine love displayed so vividly on that First Good Friday endures for each of us to this day. That is why Good Friday remains forever so, very, very Good.

Online Video Review: Reason for the Season – the Easter Triduum

A well-known chocolate company is currently running an advertising campaign for bunny-shaped treats with the tagline, ‘Why wait until Easter?’ I imagine the concept of ‘Lent’ isn’t a popular one among chocolate manufacturers, but it says a lot that they could ask this rhetorical question as if there were no obvious answer. Just as Christmas festivities are extended (for commercial reasons) into the waiting period before Christmas, so too the allure of Easter indulgence pops its head up in the last weeks of Lent.

How should we respond? Well, we should certainly ‘wait until Easter’, and stay faithful to our Lenten regimes. But in response to worldly indulgence we should be careful not to become mere puritans. The best way to avoid this possibility is to really spend time meditating on the mysteries we celebrate at Easter, which motivate both our Lenten simplicity and our Easter celebration.

The video above, produced by the Irish Dominican students, is a good way to enter more deeply into the Paschal mysteries. It explains, step by step, the Church celebrations that mark the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday), ending with the drama of the Easter Vigil. This collective journey through the liturgy is also a spiritual journey with Christ.

Cadbury’s might want to rush us to Easter, but a better path is to take your time on the journey, to walk slowly through the Upper Room, to Calvary, to the tomb, and beyond.