Given at the Solemn Commemoration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, 14th April 2017, at Westminster Cathedral.
In these days of Holy Week we have said ‘Hosanna’, save us. We have heard the Mandatum, the command of our Lord and Master. Today, we face the Cross in all its terrible cruelty. Here we can so easily lose sight of who he is.
In the First Reading, we heard the words of Isaiah: ‘He shall be lifted up; raised to great heights.’ We shall be both appalled and amazed. We witness him being lifted up to death on a cross. Only with eyes of faith do we see him raised to great heights.
With the eyes of our imagination we see him crucified: crushed, disfigured, depressed, rejected. Indeed, we screen our faces; we look away as we often do. We strive to understand that, on his Cross, Jesus is absorbing all the hatred, anger, evil of the world, all the darkness hidden in the corners of our hearts. This is what he wants: to take unto himself all our burdens. As Isaiah says, ‘Through him what the Lord wishes will be done.’ And that wish of our Father is that we receive his mercy and forgiveness.
So, as we venerate the Cross of Jesus today, as we come forward, we may hand over to the Lord every burden of our sin, of our dismay at failure, of our broken hearts. We may place at the foot of the Cross every sorrow and suffering of our broken world, including that of his disciples who still today are being martyred.
Yet we come to the Cross with the other words of Isaiah also in mind: ‘He shall be raised to great heights.’ This Cross is the gateway by which Jesus enters again the embrace of his Father. This Cross is the moment in which we see beyond the immense and relentless suffering in our world, which it represents. For on this Cross Jesus is raised up not only agony and pain, but also into glory; for his glory is to be, in his being, in his body, the unwavering total love of God for his creation.
Jesus told us: ‘When I am lifted up, then you will know that I am he.’ Yes, he is the One, existing from before all creation, who discloses the very heart of God. And it is love.
Today, we come to venerate the Cross, in its stark cruelty and in its penetrating beauty. Pope Francis recently said: ‘Never consider the Cross to be a trinket, an ornament which you wear.’ Do not look on it as a badge of belonging, of being a Christian. Rather, look on the Cross, today and every day, as the source of our salvation.
He said: ‘There is no salvation in ideas; there is no salvation in good will, in the desire to be good. The only salvation is in the crucified Christ because he alone takes to himself all the poison of sin and heals us.’
Come, let us adore him.