Given at the Solemn Commemoration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, 30th March 2018, at Westminster Cathedral.
'When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride'.
The Cross we contemplate this afternoon is indeed wondrous beyond words. As the Cross is lifted before us, in the words we have heard and in the actions that follow, we can but be filled with wonder.
Isaiah said so in that First Reading: 'The crowds astonished at him, Kings stand speechless before him; for they see something never told and witness something never heard before' (Isaiah 52:14-15).
Yet our wonder is deepened when we grasp why this is done: 'We thought of him as someone punished, struck by God, and brought low. Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace and through his wounds we are healed' (Isaiah 53:4-5). These are the words that fill our hearts when we come to venerate our Saviour and his Cross.
Two more thoughts can guide us this day, this precious Good Friday.
The first is this: Jesus, the crucified one, is our priest, our 'supreme high priest'. The priest is the one who prays for the people directly in the name of the Lord. But in Jesus, the priest, it is the Lord himself who prays for us, to his Father. What is more, he knows our every weakness and failing, though he is without sin. So, we are told, we should never be afraid 'in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need' (Hebrews 4:16). What a wonderful promise. It is fulfilled to every degree in the sacraments of the Church, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, in Confession, which, as Pope Francis says, is always an embrace of God's mercy, a caress of tenderness. This High Priest intercedes for us always, even now, 'seated at the right hand of the Father'. His prayer on our behalf never ends. With this in our hearts, we shall come to greet him with our gesture of love.
The second thought is one for us to take away. It comes from the Gospel of St John, as we have just heard. From the cross, Jesus spoke to Mary, his Mother and to John, his beloved disciple. 'This is your son.' 'This is your mother', he said. And then we heard, 'And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.'
Let us make a place for them in our hearts and in our homes. Let us resolve, today, that in our homes there is a place for Jesus and Mary, for we are his beloved disciples. Please, look around your homes and make sure that there is some sign that both Jesus and Mary have a place there: a crucifix, a statue, a focus and a reminder of the love they have for you every day and of the love you show for them today by your attendance here at this wonderful Liturgy. In that way every day we may 'survey the wondrous Cross', know where our true treasure lies and be confident in him who walks with us and who never ceases to intercede for us, that we 'shall have mercy and find grace when we are in need.'