“Were you there when they crucified my Lord? .. Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Having just listened to the passion of John, I think we can all agree to the words of that haunting song. It is our Lord, my Lord, who has been crucified and that story will forever wrench the hearts of humankind now and for ages yet to come. But Jesus’ last words must also be forever engraved in the memory of humankind, namely, “It is Consummated!” Consummated – completed – achieved to the last degree. “I have come to seek and to save what was …The Son of Man came, not to be served but to serve.” His life was one long act of loving service, and now it ends on a rocky hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, with a final act of total self-surrender to the Father, on our behalf. Nothing like it was ever accomplished before, and its fruits go on forever.On the 6th May, 1990, Steven Goff, who hails from New Jersey in the US, murdered his friend Ricky when he was just 18 years old. Steven was suspected and interviewed by the police at the time but there was never enough evidence to incriminate him. You might say that he got away with murder. But then, again, he didn’t. His friend’s death remained with him and every morning expected a knock on the door from the police. He began to live a good life but that didn’t work either. Like Macbeth he couldn’t wash the blood off his hands and certainly not off his soul.
Two years ago, he happened to watch the election of Pope Francis and became fascinated by this man ‘from the ends of the earth’. He was taken in by his humility, his desire to take the church in new directions and his constant emphasis on the mercy of God. He began to open the Bible again for the first time in decades and there came across the parable of the lost sheep and that ‘there was more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous who have no need of repentance.’
On Easter Monday two years ago Steven handed himself over to the police. Did he regret doing this? “No!” he says. “That emotion got left behind the very moment I decided to come clean. I have never felt more free than I do now.” Steven is now behind bars but is a free man and doing whatever he can to grow in faith. Perhaps the same could be said of Jesus today. The powers of darkness did their best to bind him in chains, scourge and crucify him, but they could not bind his soul. Jesus was a free man willingly going to his death rather than denying his identity as Son of God. Where Peter said, to his great remorse afterwards, I am not! Jesus said “I AM!”
Steven is just one more example telling us that Good Friday is still bearing much fruit. The marvel is that the hour of Jesus’ death remains powerfully alive in the hearts of all who trust in him – this point of total, utter contact between us and almighty God. The utterly self-giving, loving, loyal spirit of Jesus at the point of leaving this world is shared and handed on. In the crucifixion, all is consummated – because by it he draws us into contemplation of the grace and mercy of God in our lives in every circumstance.
Joseph Mary Plunkett expresses it so well in a poem written in 1916, I see His Blood Upon the Rose
I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
The poet finds in Christ the key for coping with sorrows in life, appreciating God’s presence with us every step of the way, and never more so than when we are called to share in the cross:
All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.
Yet in another sense the wonderful saving work of Jesus is not completed until it is recognised, welcomed and absorbed by each of his faithful followers, and until we in turn bring the spirit of his boundless compassion to bear in our world, reaching out as he did to bring our fellow human beings — and especially those most in need — into the warmth of God’s family circle.
Friday, 3 April 2015