Given at the Solemn Commemoration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, 2nd April 2021, in Westminster Cathedral
Very shortly, after the formal prayers of the Church for our broken world, we come to that part of today’s Liturgy called ‘The Showing of the Holy Cross’.
All the words of Holy Scripture we have heard thus far, lead us to this moment.
As we gaze on Jesus and his Cross, remember the words of Isaiah:
‘See my servant shall be lifted up, exalted, raised to great heights.’
Yes, in these days of Holy Week that is exactly what we see.
Isaiah also read accurately the response of our hearts to this sight.
He spoke of the crowds ‘being appalled on seeing him’, so disfigured had he become in the torture and death to which he was subjected.
He also spoke of the crowds, of us, being ‘astonished’, beholding something never seen before.
The Letter to the Hebrews reminded us of the reason for our astonishment. Jesus, the crucified Jesus, is our ‘supreme high priest’ who has gone through to ‘the highest heavens’, bearing the burden of our sins, freeing us from that load!
Today, as on each day of this Holy Week, we remember the words of Pope Leo the Great that we are to fix the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognise in him our own humanity. In him we recognise our very flesh and blood, now being raised ‘to great heights’ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then, our gazing turns to an act of adoration. This year we cannot come, individually, to kiss this one Cross. You can do so at home. Please do venerate your crucifix, and pass it between you, each person having the opportunity to greet the Lord in his suffering and selfless love. Here we will do so in the deepest silence of our hearts.
Now, a last word. Today we approach the Cross of the Lord with confidence. Yes, with confidence! Jesus is drawing us to himself. We need not resist. As we heard, he is capable of ‘feeling our weaknesses with us’ for he has been ‘tempted in every way, but did not sin.’ In approaching him, then, we come to the great throne of God’s mercy and the source of our salvation. We bring our deepest, most hidden selves to him, for he already knows the secrets of our hearts which we dare not whisper. He knows and he embraces us. That gives us ultimate confidence, a profound relief, for we are escaping from the spiral of guilt, blame, retaliation in which this world increasingly leaves us trapped.
But no more! This is our Good Friday and he is our salvation!