Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Way of the Cross - 11th Station


Luke 23:33-34
When they reached the place of the Skull, there they crucified him and the two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’

Psalm 21
Many dogs have surrounded me, a band of the wicked beset me. They tear holes in my hands and my feet and lay me in the dust of death.

Despite the pain, the exhaustion and cruelty that surrounded him, would it not have been for Jesus an interior joy to mount that cross and so accomplish the Father’s plan of salvation. Beholding the wondrous cross would he not have contemplated the countless souls who would embrace that cross, would look upon it as the image of merciful love and so understand the extremes of the Father’s love for them. Forever that image of the Saviour, arms wide open on the cross, would inspire sinners to come and be embraced by the Saviour whose arms are forever open to receive them. We can imagine that he did not shrink before it, but as he had carried it with such resolution and love, so now he would stretch himself out upon it, willingly easing himself into position.

With three powerful blows the first nail tears through Christ’s flesh and lodges itself in the wood of the Cross. Then follows the second, then the third; each with ruthless efficiency. The executioners couldn’t see that this was a defining moment for mankind – deicide, the murder of God. Had they known the importance of what they were doing at that moment then they would have known that such a moment demanded solemnity, time, ritual and they would have carried out each movement in this tragic turn of events with greater attention, with greater care allowing each atrocious wound the time and space to speak for itself. But they are completely ignorant of all this – they do not know what they are doing. Here is a criminal to be disposed of in the usual way. What they must do they do quickly and in a moment the Saviour of the world is lifted up and the full horror of a world gone mad is displayed for all to see.

The first wave of human sin is passed, but there comes another and yet another in a relentless onslaught crashing on the shores of that Divine Heart. Each wave foams with the sins of every human being of every generation. Every injustice, every lust, every infidelity, every angry word, every violent action, every evil thought, every gun fired, every bomb dropped, every abortion, every life taken, every conceivable evil that ever was or will be flood his soul. Each presents itself to the eyes of Christ as one huge tsunami following another – a tidal wave of rejection that roars ‘no’ to the Father.

Hanging on the cross the sins of the world wash over him, invade him and cause him the most unbearable suffering. He has asked for this, he has desired that it be this way because this is his Father’s will. And as each sin falls upon his head and his grief increases he utters no word of condemnation, no judgement. Silently he bears it all. No sin will every force him to say: ‘Enough – I will have no more, away with this cross!’

And amid all these thunderous waves there are countless small waves too. These waves do not crash violently over him, but timidly, humbly exhaust themselves at his feet. These are the waves of the Magdalenes of this world whose sins are not hurled at the Saviour, rather they are laid at the foot of his cross. They may be waves of sin – perhaps waves of the greatest possible sins, but they are waves which foam with repentance. These sins do cause him to suffer but as bitter as they are for him to swallow they leave a sweet taste as he gazes upon another soul saved for the Kingdom. While so many sinners would use their sins to crucify him – these sinners would have them crucified with him.

And so, as he is lifted up into the air on that Cross, Jesus’ words are not words of condemnation. From this throne, the judgement is mercy, mercy, mercy. Here the Saviour sits on his throne of mercy and the blood which flows from his crucified body pleads with the Father: Father forgive them, Father forgive them – they do not know what they are doing.

He prayed not for himself, not that the Father would ease his suffering, but that the Father would accept his sufferings in expiation for our sins. In extreme agony his thoughts were not on himself but on us, and that because, though great his physical sufferings were, it is a greater torture to him that any sinner should be lost. Father forgive them – Father forgive us, we offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

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