April 10, 2020
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas
Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Last evening, we entered into the mysteries of the Easter Triduum by listening to the Gospel account of the Last Supper that describes Jesus’ service to His disciples through the washing of their feet. He taught the disciples as He teaches us today: that we must go and do the same, but only after having first received this gift from Him. Today we receive a second gift from Him, the inestimable love of the cross. This gift, too, requires us to go and do the same only after having first received the gift from Him.
Christ completely fulfills the prophesy of the suffering servant that we proclaimed in our first reading from the Book of Isaiah. Christ loves us with a completely selfless love in the face of complete rejection and disobedience to the point of His murder. In the face of the fullness of the truth and an unconditional love offered from the depths of His being, He receives hatred and, perhaps even worse, a complete indifference on the part of so many. He lays down His life with complete freedom out of a complete love that bears the painful reality of suffering. Go and do the same.
The suffering of indifference, defiance, dishonesty, sacrilege, and even hatred experienced by Jesus reveals that which is experienced by God as the response of human beings since our first parents, Adam and Eve, defied God and rejected Him in Eden. God suffers for love out of our refusal to love Him in return. Jesus Christ, who has a fully divine nature and a fully human nature, now makes human that experience of God through the acceptance of His cross and offering of His life, so that in the cross we see both the rejection of love and the offering of love. The human condition, rife with sin, rejects the love of God offered by the obedience of Jesus as human sinfulness crucifies Him. The divine nature of Christ loves humanity and suffers its scandalous rejection and even more scandalous indifference to God’s love. In Jesus’ cross we have the only way that we can adequately love God in return for His love for us. The divine invitation to share in the cross of Jesus is the only means to enable us to go and do the same as Christ has done for us.
Our current circumstances have carried with them an opportunity for us to consider these very mysteries that we celebrate today. We consider the full and perfect loving obedience of Christ to the will of His Father unto His death, as compared to our selfish and indifferent disobedience to God in preference for our own will and seeking to impose our own will. We consider Christ’s willingness to love us and to suffer not only death — but also the pain of receiving our indifference to His suffering and love. How much our indifference hurts Christ’s heart. How much the justification and rationalization of our sins insults Him. How indifferent to His love we have been until our current circumstances have removed so many distractions from the reality of our sinfulness and from the reality of God’s love.
Holy Thursday and Good Friday are days of both scandal and days of grace. They are days of scandal because they require us to surrender the illusion of our self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency as nothing more than the pompous pretense of sin. They are days of grace because we are liberated, beginning with that that act of surrender of this illusion and culminating in our loving acceptance of Christ’s conquest of our sins and their bitter fruit of death, requiring our conversion in order to love Him in return.
On Holy Thursday we are asked to admit that we need to be made clean. On Good Friday we are asked to admit that our sin is so grievous it can only be healed by the blood of God made man — Jesus Christ. From these two days, we learn that humility is the condition for purification and our purification is made complete with participation. In other words, we too, like Christ, must serve others in humility and truth. We too, like Christ, must take up our cross and love our neighbor sacrificially as we follow His mandate to go and do the same.