Friday, April 14, 2017

Who is the Crucifixion For?

As a child, I believed, and even as an adult, I have said in jest, "The fireworks on the 4th of July?  They're for me."  Why?  Because as a child, I thought them wonderful and why wouldn't we do something wonderful for my birthday?  Why wouldn't my birthday go beyond one day?  As an adult, it's fun because it means I always know, my family will have off when it's time to celebrate.  

However, the joke is a joke because it's not true. 

The Crucifixion however, it is for me.  It is true.  It was always for me, and I always needed this, just to have a shot at something better beyond this life.  The same is true for each of us. The Crucifixion is a gift, an outrageous gift of over the top love from God to each of us, a sign, symbol and reality of the lengths to which, God will go to win us back. 

There are many excellent reflections and exercises one can use on this Good Friday to honor that gift.  The easiest one I know, is to hold a crucifix in your hands.

Consider His feet.  His feet which the woman washed with her tears, dried with her hair and anointed with perfume, are now pierced all the way through with a nail which someone physically drove into him. and someone else held down so it could be done. 
Next, consider his hands, which he used to make clay to place on a blind man's eyes, and to break the loaves and fishes, which he used to touch a man's ears and say, "Be opened."  They are pinned to a cross.  I don't know about you, but when I consider the nails, I tend to hold my hands, to pull back, because the idea of it is almost too much. 

At the idea of an idea being too much, I consider the crown of thorns, which pierces all over, which he cannot remove, which digs into his skull.  There are a thousand splinters, an untold number of lashes, and all the bruises from the walk and the falls with the cross. These are just the physical agonies we inflicted.

Now we add the cowardice, the grief he felt from being alone, from knowing those He did this for (us, or if I'm doing this examination alone, me), would shout "Crucify him!" The ones he did this for, would play clever, asking, "What is truth?"  The ones he did this for, would say they did not know him, would run away, would betray him, would scatter, and at best, they would watch. 

It was at this point, I hit the snag of "why did Mary, Mother of God say nothing?" 

However, Mary knew her heart would be pierced.  She knew this was the means of salvation. She'd heard his teaching. She'd heard his prediction of having to suffer and die, of having to take up the cross.  She must have pondered it in her heart, and resolved to do God's will.  Suffering her son to die, this must have been the hardest act of obedience of her life, to watch the spectacle, to not go and gather the apostles, yell at them and get them to go back and at least witness with Jesus, to stay with Him, and watch him surrender his spirit.  I cannot imagine a harder task for anyone.  Her prayer must have been a constant fiat at this point, "Let it be done according to Your will." just to hold to being a person without sin.

As I pondered her at the foot of the cross more, when you're faced with the total gift of self offered on the Cross by God for each and all of us, all you ultimately can feel, is silent awe.  So I'm guessing there was some of that in Mary's heart as well, because she would have held all those who fled, all those who shouted, all those who begged for Barabbas and all those who crucified Him, in her heart as well.  "Love God with all your heart, soul and body, and your neighbor as yourself."  Mary had to somehow, be loving those around her as she loved her Son to endure seeing Him on the cross and taking Him down. 

Who is the crucifixion for? It's for each of us, because we've been every role in this drama of the Easter story except for two, and those are the two we are to emulate.  We've been weak like Peter, we've sold out like Judas, we've been envious like the Pharisees, we've been fired up and eager like the crowd, equivocating like Pilate, desirous of having proof, of being able to command God, like Herod, cruel like those who scourged Him, violent like those who nailed him, and scared like the apostles who ran off in every direction.  The more we dig, the more we can find to prove we need God to show us, He will love us even through this, even in spite of this.  "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."  His words of forgiveness even from a cross, to each of us, for the reasons we put Him there.

Have a Great Good Friday, knowing He held onto the nails, not the hurt, and asking each of us in our lives, in our sufferings great and small, to do the same and repeat the words of Mary, "Let it be done to me, according to Your Will," and of Jesus, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

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