Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Andrew Colquhoun, OHC
RCL - Good Friday - Friday 02 April 2010
Hebrews 10:16-25 or
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
It’s not so very long ago that we gathered here with the place decorated, all of us smiling and expectant, singing carols and ready for a feast. Incarnation, Christmas… then into Epiphany with all that mysterious time can bring… kings bowing down, lavishing gifts on a destitute child; Jesus’ baptism and the water transformed into wine. Visions of God everywhere.
Then Lent. There’s really quite a bit of comfort in Lent – some space to think, get in touch with our humanity, our neediness; an opportunity to swallow a bit of humble pie and, in some contrary way, to find a little pride in having been pretty good for these six weeks.
Now the Triduum – three days – the altar is stripped down – a bit barren – but we’ll get through because we know the BIG DAY is coming.
But, my brothers and sisters, if that’s what we’re feeling, we’ve got it wrong. This is the Big Day. All that has gone before, all that will come after, depend on this day. Crucifixion and Incarnation are one.
The Child is born for this day. Somewhere in the human heart, we know this - always have. Even in the Octave of Christmas we celebrate the first martyr and the Holy Innocents. And listen to the mediaeval carols – underneath, always, the sorrow of the mother, the knowledge that this Child, this Infant Holy, Infant Lowly, is born for this day… the journey from the Bethlehem stable leads to the hill of Calvary. The first stumbling steps of the Child learning to walk are completed in Jesus’ falling on the Way of the Cross.
It’s not what we would like, that idea. We don’t like it that the Man the Child becomes is not the man we think he is. We know what we want Jesus to be. Perfect, wonder working, clearing life’s struggles out of the way. We don’t really want more than that. We sing that we want to be like Jesus and what we mean is that we want to be nice like Jesus. We want to do good; we want to heal, we want to feed the hungry; we want to be obedient but we don’t really want to be like Jesus. We want to be respectable. We want to have faith. We want to know and have a guarantee that we are forgiven for our sins whatever they may be. We would like to trust and be certain of our discipleship. We want to feel that at the end, we’ll be among the saved singing the endless praises in heaven.
We want all that but we don’t want to be like Jesus.
Jürgen Moltmann wrote a book called The Crucified God – a most moving and provoking book. In it he says: “God did not become man according to the measure of our conceptions of being a man. He became the kind of man we do not want to be: an outcast, accursed crucified.”
Somewhere, sometime, somehow we have forgotten that the Crucified One is God. Not a being apart from the Trinity but of the Trinity. God did not hand over another person to the Cross – God gave God’s self. The Lamb is God.
We are so desperate to have things made right; we want the sacrifice to clear everything up. Sweep all the dirt away. Wash me. Make me different so that you can love me. We demand the sacrifice.
But the cross is not the result of our indifference to the Incarnation; it is the point of the Incarnation. We didn’t force God’s hand by being who we are. The Cross of the outcast and forsaken Christ is the reality of the world. If God has taken upon himself death on the Cross it is because he has taken on himself all of life – real life.
The Crucified God is one with every desperate, broken longing of the human heart. There is no depth to which humanity can sink that the Cross has not reached. There is no emptiness in our hearts that God does not know.
Jesus is the lover of the addict mugging the pensioner for a fix; Jesus desires the hooker with HIV whom no system will help because she’s “promiscuous.” Jesus shares the terror of the child who waits in the dark for the pain that the perpetrator brings and Jesus bears the shame. Jesus stands in the place of the people in Haiti and Africa and Iraq and Afghanistan who had nothing and now don’t even have hope.
Jesus accuses God of abandoning him and his anguish is the cry of Rachel weeping for her children for they are no more. It’s the cry of the people who can’t see God. The people the Church demeans or ignores…all the gay people, the poor people, the throw-away people.
Jesus – crucified – is the emptiness of existence known by God and sheltered in the Sacred Heart.
So we don’t want to be like Jesus. None of us could bear it. None of us is so loving. Thanks be to God in Christ that we don’t carry such a burden. Our burden is to let that love take us into this poor broken world where God is alive.
Oh God, make us to be like Jesus!