Bottom line: In order to save us, Jesus not only endured terrible human suffering; he joined our suffering to his own.
This evening we heard Isaiah's prophecy about a mysterious suffering servant - a man who would be humiliated, shamed and disfigured beyond imagination. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when he embraced the cross - for our sake. Using majestic language St. John recounts what he endured on our behalf.
Our salvation came about through the human suffering of Christ. The Letter to the Hebrews speaks about his "loud cries and tears." Jesus went through a lot in order to become our high priest. It is easy for us to lose sight of just how much Jesus suffered for us.
Here in this country, we saw an example of insensitivity to Jesus' suffering. You may have read about it. For the amusement of visitors to a fancy New York hotel, an artist used chocolate to make a full-size image of Jesus crucified. Chocolate. You wonder what he was thinking. Just on a human level, what was he thinking? Would he make a chocolate figure of a concentration camp victim? Would he form a candy image of Saddam's execution? The fact that an artist can make a chocolate figure of Christ crucified - and give it the cute title My Sweet Jesus - shows how our society does not connect with the human reality of Jesus' crucifixion.
Part of our task this Good Friday is to re-connect with the reality of what Jesus endured for our sake. What first attracts our attention is the physical suffering: the cuts in his flesh, the thirst, the gasping for breath, the swarms of insects. When we think a little deeper, we recognize that the cross also represents shame: the systematic humiliation involved in the stripping, public lashing and mockery. But even beyond these tortures, there is something more, much more. Isaiah says that he "endured our sufferings." In a real sense, the crucifixion focused all human cruelty upon Christ.
I would like to give just one example of how Jesus takes to himself the suffering of others. This year on March 15 we observe the seventieth anniversary of the death of Ramon Sainz Orozco. He was one of the Mexican martyrs in the late 30's and has been officially recognized as a "Servant of God," that is, the bishop of his diocese has entered his cause for canonization. Ramon Sainz lived an heroic life - and he faced death heroically. Before the authorities put him to death, they subjected him to a cruel torture. They cut off the soles of his feet, tied a rope around his hands and forced him to walk behind a horse - for over a mile. You can hardly imagine the pain involved in every step, as he stumbled to the place of his execution. Now, Ramon Sainz consciously joined his pain to the suffering of Christ. And Christ - because he is God in human flesh - added to his suffering the pain of that Servant of God. But not only the pain of that one heroic Mexican martyr, Jesus accepted upon himself the pain of suffering humanity. All our cruelty to each other became part of Jesus' crucifixion. When we look at the cross, we should try to see not only Jesus' suffering, but that of our fellow human beings.
This evening we have the opportunity to do something small, but significant to connect with what Jesus' death means. Our deacon will carry the cross in procession singing, "This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world." We will all respond, "Come, let us worship." Then we will come forward individually to venerate the cross of Christ. On the cross he joined our suffering to his own. We venerate his cross with great reverence - and with deep gratitude.
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Divine Mercy Novena (print ready in English & Spanish) Bulletin (Holy Week Subtext: Jewish-Christian Relations)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
My bulletin column
Parish Picture Album
Reasons Young People Leave Their Faith - Presentation for Monroe Christian Pastors. (For pdf format click here)
Background for presentation on "Reasons Young People Leave Their Faith": High School Course – World Civilization - Section on origins of Christianity. (For pdf format click here)
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