Though the reading of John’s passion takes a long time, we never tire of hearing it. It is not a fairy tale with a happy ending, it is the harsh accounting of betrayed and denied friendships, a telling of rejected and deserted love, false accusations, unfair trial and condemnation; it’s about the cruel execution of an innocent man. We can see in the suffering servant of whom Isaiah writes the suffering Jesus.
When we look on the broken body of the crucified we realize Christ was wounded for our offences. He bore our infirmities and carried our diseases. When think of this man of sufferings we know he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, punished on our behalf and his many bruises heal us. Each one of us is a very important part of this story. Each one of us has left a mark on the body of the suffering Christ for it is by Christ’s wounds we are healed. Each one of us was on Calvary that dread day because Christ died for us, not as some speck in the mass of humanity, but for each of us individually. St. Paul tells us that Christ suffered for the righteous and the unrighteous in order to bring us to God. Christ died for you, and you and you and me. This is an amazing thing. Christ died for us knowing we are sinners, knowing we are weak and fickle and selfish, Christ died for us knowing we use one another, exploit one another, do violence to one another. Christ died for us knowing we are racists and bigots, and sexist. That’s what love does. Not our love for others but God’s love for us.
St. Paul reminds us that is was while we were still weak Christ died for the ungodly. Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, a good and worthy person, but it might happen. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. When we look upon the broken, crucified body of Christ we see the love of God made visible, for you, for me.
Let’s imagine we were all there on those crowded streets of Jerusalem. Let’s imagine we were there as those who believed in Jesus and what he taught us about God, His Father, we believed in His miracles, we were willing to try to be the men and women He called us to be.
What would we have done, how would we handle all we saw being done to Jesus? Would we call out that they were killing an innocent man? Would we brave the fury of the whipped up crowd and try to save him, distract the crowd and help him escape? Probably not, we would have lacked courage, been intimidated by the soldiers and the crowd. We would be among the silent majority that allows injustice to go unchallenged.
We’ve all heard the truth that Christ suffers today in our humanity, Christ suffers in his brother and sisters who are the victims of injustice, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice, racism. There is a whole litany of sins common in our city, country and the world that are against the love we recognize today in the Crucified Christ.
We can admit we wouldn’t have done anything then but are we willing to do something today? Are we willing to let our government know we want justice and protection for the nannies and migrant workers who are exploited by agencies here and abroad? Are we willing to speak out in defense of the unborn and the aged? Are willing to let our local politicians know we want them to move on such issues as affordable housing and the proper care of street people? Are we willing to welcome refugees and immigrants to our neighbourhoods and country? Are we generous enough to support food and clothing drives to help those in need?
Years ago there was a book of reflections on the Stations of the Cross. The eighth station is Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem. Reflecting on that Station the author has Jesus saying, “don’t weep for me as I suffered two thousand years ago, weep for me now and I suffer in your next door neighbour, your co-worker. Weep for me now as I suffer in all men, women and children, my brothers and sisters – your brothers and sisters – whose tragic stories you see on the news every day of the week. I suffer in them. Whatever you do for them, you do for Me.”
At the end of the service you will be invited to reverence the cross. I suggest we bring three things with us as approach the cross: sorrow for our sins, thanksgiving for Christ’s great love for us, and a determination to do whatever we can to relieve the sufferings of Christ, as He suffers today in all those who are innocent victims of any and all sins against their humanity. Whatever you do to one of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do to Me.