Bottom line: Standing at the foot of the cross with Mary, we renew the pledge to God: May it be done to me according to your word.
This evening we stand with Mary at the foot of the cross. At her side is the beloved disciple. Jesus first says to Mary, "Woman, behold your son." Then to the disciple who represents the baptized, Jesus says, "Behold, your mother."
For Mary this must have been a deeply emotional moment. Perhaps she recalled the first instance when she received Jesus into her womb - the moment when she said to the angel, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." She could not have guessed it would come to this. Here she was standing before her tortured Son, hearing the insults thrown at him. Perhaps they even tossed insults at her. In that culture, one of ugliest ways to offend someone was to insult their mother. She may have asked herself, How could it come to this?
Like Mary, when we say yes to God's plan, we do not know where it will lead us. Last year at our parish, some 58 couples pledged themselves to the life-long union of marriage. It was beautiful to witness their love and joy, but we know they will also face trials. For richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.
I also remember the day I pledged myself to God. Especially on Good Friday, I remember the day of my ordination because part of the ceremony involved prostrating myself on the floor - like the priest and servers do at the beginning of this liturgy. When I said, yes, to God, I did not know where it would lead. In my case these have been - overall - good and happy years. For whatever reason - maybe because he knows what a coward I am - God has spared me from great suffering I have witnessed in other people's lives. At the same time, I am aware that most of what I have suffered came because of my own failings and sins. As my dad sometimes said, "You have no one to blame but yourself."
When we stand at the foot of the cross with Mary and St. John, I believe that all of us are aware to some degree of our sins. Those sins have put Jesus on the cross; he is suffering on our behalf. But we are not just aware of our faults. We recognize something much more important - the Divine Mercy. Standing before the cross, we realize that the Divine Mercy is like an ocean - an ocean that absorbs all of our pollution and corruption. Pope John Paul said that the Divine Mercy is the limit that God places on human evil. You know, the ocean - immense as it is - can only absorb so much. It cannot protect us from all of our human excesses. But that is not the case with the Divine Mercy. If we turn toward him, he will take our misery upon himself, he will absorb the punishment our sins deserve.
Now, this does not mean we merrily continue to sin - anymore than we should thoughtlessly pollute the ocean and the atmosphere. What we need to do is to renew our pledge to the Lord. We could well use Mary's words: "I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
The Good Friday edition of the National Catholic Register had an article on the kidnapping and subsequent death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. They reflected on his death in light of Cardinal Newman's suggestions to those who have become cold, who have lost their sense of horror in face of Jesus' crucifixion:
Cardinal John Henry Newman, while still an Anglican priest, suggested two ways to renew the horror of the Crucifixion in your mind if you have grown cold to it. First, he suggested imagining a child in the place of Christ, being tortured and killed. We would feel the horror of it because children are innocent. “And was not Our Lord gentler, sweeter, meeker, more tender, more loving than any little child?” asked Newman.Spanish Version
Then he suggested, in one of his remarkable, and remarkably long, sentences:
"Let us suppose that some aged and venerable person whom we have known as long as we could recollect any thing, and loved and reverenced..."
The “venerable old man” that Cardinal Newman describes could easily be Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose body was found in Mosul March 13, nearly two weeks after he was kidnapped.
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Week of Divine Mercy, Royal College of Psychiatrists on abortion risk to mental health, Obstetric & Vascular Doppler for Mary Bloom Center)
Times for Holy Week Confessions (including Holy Saturday)
Pilgrimage to St. James Cathedral