Today, Good Friday, we retrace the Passion and suffering our Our Lord, marking the steps of Jesus’ final act of love and mercy—the act that is completed on the cross when our Lord shouts triumphantly, “It is finished!” Earlier in the evening, on the night of His betrayal, Jesus had gathered the disciples in the Upper Room and celebrated the Passover with them. He had washed their feet, and in an act of love, instituted the Holy Eucharist.
Knowing what was to come, Jesus then departed from the, taking only Peter, James, and John with Him to the garden at Gethsemane. It was there He began His Passion, a journey of suffering remembered and meditated upon during the Five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. His Agony in the Garden is the first of these mysteries, all of which would occur before three o’clock the following day, Good Friday.
32They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
35Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
37Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
39Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (Mark 14: 32-42)
39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46"Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22: 39-46)
Scourging at the Pillar, the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary.
1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. (John 19:1)
Historically, at that time, those who were sentenced to crucifixion were first flogged or scourged. They were tied to a low pillar, stripped, generally bent over, and beat mercilessly with a whip, drawing blood, and weakening them so that they could more easily be affixed to their cross. In this way, this initial humiliation was only part and parcel of the final humiliation Christ endured for us in dying like a criminal.
And yet He continues on, through the mockery and indignation of His “coronation,” trudging up the hill to His crucifixion. We are reminded in our own times of pain that Jesus understands. He has already endured more than we have, can, or could. His suffering was so that we would not have to repeat it. His suffering was pure, in sacrifice for our sins. When we suffer with Him, His purity of intent enters into us, and we are supported, uplifted, renewed.
The crown of thorns may not have physically hurt Jesus—this is something that Biblical scholars disagree on. Some insist that the sharp thorns pierced the scalp (and even the skull) of Our Lord, oftentimes depicted in art. Others suggest that this crown of thorns was, in reality, a decorative garland used in royal ceremonies, and that by the soldiers placing in on the head of Jesus, it was a final act of mockery, degradation, and insult.
The crowning with thorns reminds us of our pride and our vanity. It reminds us that when we judge others, mock others, insult others, degrade others, we are re-enacting the humiliation of the Roman soldiers. We are reminded that the Lord allowed Himself to be brought low for our sins, because He loves us. We are reminded that everything we have belongs to Him and everything we do comes from Him. We are reminded that despite our cruelty, Jesus is Our Lord, and wears not a crown of thorns, but one of radiant light!
Way of the Cross, the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.
16Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). (John 19: 16-17)
Saint Luke, in his Gospel, tells us a bit more about Jesus' journey along the Via Delarosa.
26As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' 30Then " 'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!"
and to the hills, "Cover us!"’ 31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 19: 26-31)
The Way of the Cross, The Way of Sadness, the Via Delarosa.
We can’t even begin to imagine the heaviness of His burden, or the heaviness of His steps. Each step brought Him closer to His final torment, His final torture, His human death. But each step also brought Him closer to the completion of His mission of love and forgiveness for us. This is clear, that even in the midst of the shadow of pain and sin that hung over Him on his long walk to the cross, He is thinking of us. Jesus stops to comfort the women of Jerusalem. “Weep not for me,” He says, “But for yourselves and your children.” He is predicting the final judgment. He is still, on His way to His death, calling those He is sacrificing for to repentance-- just as He continues to call us to repentance today.
The footsteps of Christ are heavy… And for us, we too dread the final steps of His journey to Golgotha. We walk with Him, on the streets of Jerusalem that are wet with His blood. We know what awaits Him. And we know what awaits us on Good Friday.
And then the hopelessness, desolation, and waiting of Holy Saturday.
28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken,"37and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced." (John 19: 28-37)
Jesus, in the moments leading up to His death—a death which He clearly died for us—is still thinking of others. He comforts His mother and the disciple whom He loved, he offers redemption to the “good thief,” He draws us all to Himself in His suffering, reaching into the darkest void of sin and death, and converting it to an unending well of grace. In His death, Jesus creates a new world, a reborn world, a world where sin no longer has the power it usurped in the Garden of Eden.
And as the world is reborn, so, too are we. We are freed from the burdens of sin that we carry in our own personal Via Delarosa. We need only look within ourselves, contemplating our own suffering, and we see the joyful sacrifice of the Lord on the cross—He who suffered for us, did so willingly, freely, joyfully. He ransomed us from slavery.
He set us free.
Year 2: Day 112 of 365Prayer Intentions: Hope in the Risen Lord
Requested Intentions: Successful immigration; for a sister’s career and marriage (F); Financial recovery; Successful ministry (A); Financial ability to send children to school (S); Safe return of a runaway (J); Healing of a family (J); Reconciliation of marriage (S); Healing of a daughter with congenital heart disease (F); Healing and an end to suffering (J); For the children (M); For a son fighting a rare immune system disease (R); Freedom from imprisonment (J); Employment and end to depression (H); Successful employment (A); Health for a soon to be delivered baby (T); Financial security (L); Healing of tooth pain (A); Health of expectant mother and child (R); Purification of the souls in Purgatory (A); Guidance in studies (J); Healing and security for a displaced family (C); Healing of high blood pressure; Recovery of brother following surgery (A); For a sister in trouble, that she may make better decisions in the light of Christ (M); Health of expectant mother and child (R); Attainment of funds for surgery (J).