A trial took place on Good Friday 1,970 years ago. The defendant? God! The crime? Telling the truth, that He was God. The punishment? Death by Crucifixion.
The Sanhedrin put Our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on trial after arranging with Judas to betray His Master. They delighted in finally having the chance to mock and ridicule the man who had undermined their teaching authority, the One who claimed that He was God. They had no idea that He had surrendered Himself into their power, that He had a mission to fulfill which was to benefit every human being, themselves included.
But the Sanhedrin had no power to put anyone to death. The Jewish people lived under Roman occupation. The leaders of the Sanhedrin had to ask the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to put Jesus to death. But Jesus had committed no crime deserving of death according to Roman law; all attempts by the Sanhedrin to convince Pilate that Jesus had made Himself the equal of Caesar fell on deaf ears. Pilate knew when he beheld the Man that the prisoner handed over to Him was guilty of no crime.
However, Pilate needed the cooperation of the Sanhedrin to keep peace among his Jewish subjects in Judea. He agreed to examine Jesus, if only to prove to them that He was no criminal. Baffled by Our Lord's proclamation that He was a king--but not a king of this world, utterly confused by what Our Lord meant that He had come into the world to bear witness to the Truth, Pilate was determined to release Our Lord.
The crowd would have none of it. None of it. They wanted Barabbas released, the political terrorist who promised the Chosen People liberation from Roman rule. The Man who challenged them to change their lives, to take up their crosses to follow Him, had to be crucified.
So Our Lord was scourged. He exposed His back to the blows caused by the bone-tipped whips which tore through His flesh with excruciating pain. He permitted the Roman soldiers to blindfold Him, to hammer a crown of thorns deep into His skull. His Precious Blood gushed forth all over the very men whose bloodlust knew no limit. Out of fear, Pilate placated the crowd. He did that which was "useful" for Roman occupation.
How many times have we denied knowing Our Lord? Never? Think again. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto Me." Are not the preborn our brothers and sisters in Christ? How many times have we failed to speak out in their defense? How has our indifference to the abomination of abortion caused the condemnation of over forty-three million innocent victims?
How many times have we been ashamed to defend Christ's Holy Church? How many times have we joined in jokes or conversations which mocked the faith--or put Church teaching into question? How many times have we been all too willing to wash our fingers of any responsibility for the problems of the world?
How many times have we put God on trial? How many times have we complained about our lot in life? How many times have we doubted the power won for us this day on the Holy Cross to help us in our time of need? How many times have we doubted the necessity--or the efficacy--of prayer, especially when it appeared as though our prayers went unanswered? How many times have we not put our total trust in the Word of God, believing that salvation is to be found in some political party or government program?
Human salvation comes only from the Wood of the Cross. It comes only from the Tree of Life. For it was on the Tree of Life atop the stinkhole known as Golgotha that the Son of God made Man won back for us what was lost on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. The new Adam, Jesus Christ, cancels out the debt of sin owed by the first Adam. Human beings are reconciled to Almighty God. Jesus makes it possible for sinful creatures to choose to cooperate with the graces He would win for us on this very day if they desired the eternal life He promised for all who helped Him carry His Holy Cross.
His hands nailed to the crossbeam at the juncture of the wrist and the forearm, Jesus stretched out His arms on the horizontal beam to embrace the whole of humanity for all eternity to lift us up on the vertical beam to the Father in Heaven. He redeemed everything about us during the time He spent on the Holy Cross. There is not one suffering, emotional or physical, including chronic and terminal illnesses, that cannot be endured by means of the grace He won for us this day. All human suffering was redeemed this day! Not only did Jesus redeem us from sin, He made it possible for us to help Him redeem the world if we understand the redemptive nature of human suffering united with His perfect sacrifice to the Father on the Cross in Spirit and in Truth!
If you want to know who you are as a human being, look at the Cross! If you want to know why suffering occurs, look at the Cross. The guiltless took the place of the guilty, us. Can we, who are guilty of sin, be spared that which the Son of God voluntarily took upon Himself for us? Cannot we accept the crosses we are asked to bear with courage and with profound love?
Satan does not want to us to bear suffering well. He does not want us to help Christ redeem the world. He wants us to call for the Kevorkians of the world, those who deny the saving power of the Cross, those who would sell people the lie that there is no purpose to human pain and misfortune. There is! Look at the Cross!
We do not seek suffering in life. But if it comes our way, Our Lord is giving us a chance to make reparation for our sins, to help the poor souls in Purgatory--and to give profound and courageous witness to all of those around us that we believe He won eternal life for us this very day, this supremely good Friday.
Our Lady gave birth to Our Lord painlessly in Bethlehem. She wrapped her only-born Son in swaddling clothes as He lay in the wood of the manger. His little face radiated all of the holiness of His Divinity.
Our Lady gave birth to us on Good Friday, however, as adopted sons and daughters of the Living God in great pain. She cried loudly as she saw the toll that human sin took on the Sacred Humanity of the child she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in her virginal and immaculate womb. She watched in horror as her Son gasped for breath on the wood of the Cross, as He died in His Humanity so as to feed people with His Body and Blood. The God-Man who was born in a manger would make the Wood of the Cross the new manger, the feeding trough for eternal life.
Our Lord spoke words of forgiveness from the crowd as He shed every last drop of His Most Precious Blood. He promised Heaven to the good thief. He quoted from Scripture. He gave His Blessed Mother to us to be our Mother. And He committed His spirit to His Heavenly Father.
Although He had died in His Sacred Humanity, none of his enemies knew that His death had swallowed up the power of death forever. But He was born in order to die, so that each of us might die to self so as to live.
Born in a cave, buried in a cave. Born a sign of contradiction, died as the sign of contradiction. Wrapped in swaddling clothes by His Blessed Mother in Bethlehem, wrapped in a burial shroud by her this very day. No room for Him in the inn at his birth, room for Him in a borrowed tomb.
We leave the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday fed by the Food that comes from the living manger. We will leave Church on Good Friday in silence, mourning the death of the God-Man caused by our own betrayal, our own indifference. We will leave Church that day in gratitude that He was willing to be found guilty for our sakes.
For without the Redemptive act by Divine Mercy Himself on Good Friday, none of us could be found not guilty in a trial at the conclusion of our lives. It is only because He was found guilty that we can know the acquittal that He won for us on the day He gave Himself up for us on the Tree of Life, the Holy Cross.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
To be continued in Holy Saturday's issue
For Tom's first segment on Passiontide, see Part One
For his second segment for Palm Sunday, see Part Two
For his third segment for Holy Thursday, see Part Three