Good Friday (4/2)
St. Catharine- St. Margaret Parish
My sisters and brothers, today is Good Friday. The cross is once again front and center. It is reminiscent of a torture and a heinous death. As a kid, who grew up in a Catholic dominated country and somehow conservative community, I remember what my elders used to say, “That you should never look at the cross without at the same time, thinking of your sins.” Perhaps some of you were also taught that way, that our sins have put Jesus on the cross.
So Good Friday after Good Friday, the dying, tortured, and severely damaged Christ compels us of our sin, our sin, our most grievous sin. It seems to be that we Catholics have our own version of the fundamentalist view of our religion: that everything Christ was and did, especially on the cross, all of that comes down now to only one issue: SIN.
It has compelled us to think in moral division. Who is sinner and who is not? Who’s going to heaven, who to hell? What does the law say, what is the violation? And not very far behind: Who is Catholic and will be saved, who’s not and will burn? Who can be baptized, who must not? Who’s married in Church, who’s living in sin? Who’s straight, who’s gay? The entire life and teaching of Christ, now reduced to either sin or purity, but mostly to sin.
And so our Good Friday formulas goes like this: Jesus died because of sin. He died for our sins. He died to save us from sin. And don’t get me wrong, all that is very very true. But I think that it is lacking and incomplete. Page 1 For what about love? I mean, what about the cross and love? Isn’t the cross a picture of the greatest love story ever told? But, on the second thought, never mind the Lord’s love, right? Jesus’ love complicates our doctrines, right? Love just blurs the line between sinner and God.
On the second thought, no. Leave love out of this. Love is too scandalous. Love relaxes the boundaries between sinner and righteous, between heaven and hell. Love does not clarify the point where God’s mercy should stop, so that God’s justice can begin. No, never mind love and the cross. Love leads to the horror of “relativism”. No; cross and sin, that’s it! Never mind love.
This is precisely why those people who killed Jesus did, because they couldn’t stand too much love. His love crossed the line to the outrageous. Those arms are better pinned on a cross. They embraced way too many people. Those feet, they refused to toe the line; they’re better off nailed still. And that heart—that heart that’s way too soft on sinners, we must bleed it dry to a full stop. The only thing that can stop outrageous love is outrageous hate. So “crucify him, crucify him.”
My dear sisters and brothers, I respect our elders very much and what they’ve taught us. But I wish to still say that we cannot reduce the cross of Christ to just an issue of our sinning—even if it’s sinning greatly.
I can only imagine, if I asked the dying Christ, “Why are you allowing all these happen to you?” the last thing he’d say would be: “Because you are sinful!” Rather, I seem to hear him say, “Because I loved…too much, I Page 2 guess.” That’s our Lord’s “reduction”. That’s what his cross is all about, much more than sin. It is all about the distance God would go to tell us again and again, “My Child, loving you is not just what I do. It is who I am. I love you into life. I will love you unto death.”
But the problem is most of the time for the most of us, because of the guilt of sin in our hearts we think that we are in this deep dark place of bondage. And no matter how many times did the Lord try to take our chains off from the shackles of sin, we continue to say no. We refuse to forgive ourselves.
We continue to say: I deserve this, I deserve the guilt, the shame, the consequence, I deserve divorce, poverty, sickness. But Jesus once again tells us, no let me have it. Let me have your sin, let me have your pain. Give me your shame. And then one more time we insist, but God what if I do it again? Jesus says to us: I’d still be here. Give me your sins child.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is not our discipline, our focus, or our devotion. Our greatest challenge really: is believing in the gospel. Could it be that there’s a God with a LOVE so scandalous, so wide, so deep, so vast, so high, so expansive, so welcoming, so inclusive. A God who loves us and will do everything to take us back to Him. A God who loves us that He has been preparing a place for us in order to take us with Him, so that where He is, we can be there also, where He is going, we know the way. A God who loves us that paved the way and opened the gates of paradise to all.
St Paul in his letter to the Romans can attest to this great love of our God. And he beautifully puts it: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean that he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?...I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or earth below. Indeed nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
My great hope for all of us, that even in the midst of this testing and pain that we are all experiencing, we not only see the negative effects of the situation, but more importantly to see the positive impact that is happening around us. Let this moment once again, be an opportunity for us to know and to grow in God’s indomitable love in Christ. That all those who believe in Him see, that His very love for us, is the source of our eternal salvation.
There’s a song we sing every Good Friday, entitled, “Were You There?” And my favorite line in that song is this: “Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” When we look at the Christ on the cross, we may very well “tremble” out of fear for our sins, and what our sins can do. But I hope that as we grow deeper in love with the Lord, when we do look at him on the cross, may we realize that our frail bodies, our quivering, starved bodies cannot hold so much love…so that all we can do is “tremble, tremble, tremble.”
Please join me for the Celebration of the Lord's Passion at 3PM at St. Catharine Church today.
Fr Gregg Abadilla
on Friday, April 2 at 9:06AM