Imagine you are the Apostle John. All the other apostles have taken flight – you aren’t sure where they went, including your biological brother James – but now it is 3:00 on the first Good Friday. You are the only apostle left, and there you are on Mt Calvary. You are standing at the foot of the cross where Jesus was crucified and it is dark and dreary. The Blessed Mother is there next to you. You aren’t sure what to say so you don’t say anything.
As you look up at Jesus, you see Him suffering, bleeding, and struggling to breathe. He is exhausted and his body is bleeding from the scourging. And it is Jesus: the man who had called you away from the dirty fishing business and to a life of an apostle. He had worked miracles for you, he had preached to you, he had taught you so many things. Last night, he gave you his body and blood in the form of bread and wine; now his blood is sprinkling on you and you see his torn body falling apart.
Out of love and compassion for Jesus, your teacher, your friend, your brother, your Lord…he is everything to you– you only want to wrap your arms around Him and embrace Him. You might climb a ladder to reach Him.
But the body of Jesus is nailed to the cross. It is impossible to embrace Jesus without embracing the cross.
Friends, this is how it is today in our lives in the year of our Lord 2022. Sometimes, many Christians today chase after a relationship with Jesus which excludes the cross. We only want to be comforted by Jesus, we want to be blessed by Him, and we want to share in His joy. But Good Friday teaches us that this is only one side of the Christian coin. Jesus says: “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must take up His cross daily and follow me.” We cannot embrace Jesus without also embracing the cross. When we do so generously, then come the comforts, blessings, and joys.
Generally, when we try to run away from the cross, we only invite into our lives more pain and misery than was there before. We want to avoid sorrow, so we drown ourselves with nightly doses of alcohol – then we end up being ruled by the bottle. We want to avoid work, so we sit on a couch all day at the expense of our employer, our family, our county, and our church—and then we end up feeling lousy in body, mind and soul. We want to feel less lonely, less afraid, so we turn to the internet, or drugs, or food—only to be drawn into empty rabbit holes, quagmires and ruts that leave us feeling dirty and ashamed.
Better to embrace Jesus. And you can’t do that unless you embrace the cross.
Msgr Mark: Jesus never asks us to do something that he has not already done for us in a greater way. So it is with the cross. When Jesus tells us we must embrace the cross in order to embrace him…..he has already embraced the cross, but he did it in order to embrace US.
Jesus is not ashamed to embrace us, and He does not turn away from us in disgust. By His love He humbled Himself to bear the cross for our salvation. Jesus is not ashamed to embrace us, no matter how much it is that we’re dealing with. He does not turn away from us in our pain, but instead enters into it and makes it His own. As Christians, it is impossible for us to suffer alone, for our suffering is the suffering of Jesus. When we are lost, Jesus comes to find us. And when we face death, Jesus is already there ahead of us, calling us to pass through death to eternal life. For in embracing the cross, Jesus embraced us.
To embrace us, it was necessary for Jesus to embrace the cross.
To embrace Jesus, it is necessary for us to embrace the cross.