by the Late Fr. Michael F. Massabni
What our blessed Lord did for us during His Holy Week and particularly on Holy Friday is almost beyond comprehension.
It is good for us to approach the foot of the cross, for it is there we learn what the love of God means, what man is really intended to be, and what God's answer to the world's problems and the problems of every individual's life is. There is something pathetically human in His words of longing: "What? Could ye not watch one hour with me?"
There is something sweetly human in His words of appreciation of the loyalty and love to the faithful. "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptation."
The greatest danger on this day is that we shall so occupy our minds with the sufferings and death of Our Saviour that we shall miss altogether the meaning of His last words to us and the meaning behind His suffering and death.
Let us try to recapture some of the restraint and dignity which possessed the writers of the Gospels as they record for us the last hours of His earthly life: to see if we can rise above the emotional elements that surround the story of the cross and capture, instead, some of the compelling and impressive teachings of the Seven Words.
The good news of the cross is not merely about Jesus: it is also about God, the Father. All that happened on the cross permits us not only to look upon Jesus as the Saviour of mankind, but shows us in terms of love just how much God loved the world. Jesus opened the way for men to know God when He showed them a love that was glad to suffer of its own. During the three hours we must let Him speak to us through His passion and the words He spoke on that first Holy Friday: "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do."
The tragedy of the crucifixion begins with a prayer of forgiveness. Christianity has only one legitimate weapon, though it may use many. It can conquer the world only by loving and forgiving. On Calvary, the whole heart of God is seen and through it all God went on loving mankind. With a crown of thorns on His head, nails tearing his flesh, and a crowd of sightseers making sport below, with the kiss of Judas still smarting, He spoke those words of forgiveness.
No greater demonstration of forgiveness has ever been given than that was given by the One who for long hours suffered the agony of the Cross, and was repeating these words even while they stripped Him of His garments. He was offering up this prayer when they were driving the iron spikes into His hands and feet. He was asking forgiveness for them while they jeered Him. Through it all He kept saying: "Father, forgive them."
It is hard to see how the clouds of war can even be dispelled until humanity stands in reverence beneath the Cross and hears the cry "Father, forgive." We shall go on stumbling along from one catastrophe to another until Christ's way of loving men into penitence is tried. From the Cross He reminds us of what He said to His disciples: "Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you. and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you that ye may be the children of God."
Nowhere has the superiority of love been so clearly demonstrated. At no time in human history has the line between hate and love been so clearly drawn.
Source: The Word Magazine April 1967
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