GOOD FRIDAY: THE CELEBRATION OF THE POWER OF THE CROSS
Rev. Fr. John-Mary Ntol Atep
“THERE IS A day in the year when, for once, the high point in the liturgy of the Church is not the Eucharist, but the cross; in other words, the liturgy is not centred on the sacrament but on the event. This day is Good Friday, when Mass is not celebrated and we contemplate and adore only the cross.” The Liturgy of the passion of the Lord could be likened to a scene in a stadium where we are watching the fight between a courageous man who beats a ruthless tyrant. When the battle is over, the courageous man hands the victory crown to his supporters, who spent the entire battle seated in the stands, watching. In Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection that was what happened. Christ fought and humanity won.
Good Friday should not be a commemoration of an event that happened in the past, but we should make the event present and operative in our lives. There are four signs that support the truth that God lives: Creation, the bible, the Life of Jesus Christ and the power of the Cross. Good Friday offers us the opportunity to celebrate the power of the Cross. The power of the Cross means the power of God (1Cor. 1:18). The cross itself is a symbol but what makes it powerful is Christ’s Blood. In Exodus 12 during the Passover feast, the blood of lambs were smeared on the doorposts of the Israelites and the angel of death passed over them. Meanwhile the people of Israel with reason where saved with the blood of lambs with no reason. Moses reports to us that the blood of the lambs was a figure of the Blood of Jesus. No wonder, “one of the soldiers pierced (the) side (of Jesus) with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34).
The cross serves as the universal symbol of Christianity. On one of the Fridays that I went for Stations of the Cross, I sighted a Chinese with an ambulance and there was the Red Cross painted on both side doors and on the front and back. I struck up a conversation with him and I asked him why the ambulance was painted with a red cross. He had never thought about it, and he answered momentarily, “It is so people will clear a way for it to pass. You know, the cross is a universal symbol of humanitarianism.” But I persisted, why? He didn’t know. Then I asked, “Why is it always red?” He still had no answer. So, I shared with him the story of the Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified, adding that it was painted red because of the Blood He shed on that Cross for the sins of the whole world.
For over two thousand years, billions of people have come under the Cross with their sins and weaknesses, kneeled before it, and asked God to forgive their sins and save their souls. Thieves stop stealing when they leave the Cross. Recall the thief on his cross by the side of Jesus who said “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom! And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). Like the “good thief” we need to confess our sins. Doing so will bring us peace of conscience. Through the power of the cross, prostitutes find new professions; alcoholics and drug addicts throw off their lifetime addictions to substance abuse and become models of transformed behaviour. Through the cross failed businesses and enterprises have been restored. The cross liberates those possessed by demons and sustains them afterwards. In the passion narrative of John, Mary Magdalene, the one Jesus had cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2) was numbered among other women standing by the cross of Jesus (John 19:25). You and I are part of these people.
Our generation more than all others is power-obsessed. If it doesn’t have power we are not interested. Hence we talk of “power runners” in football or “power forwards” in basketball or “power hitters” in baseball. We also talk of “Powerful priests”, “Powerful politicians”, “Power engines”, and “Power rockets” and so forth. Good Friday says to us that there is also power in Christianity – the power of the cross. Therefore, St. Paul reminds us “While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the gentiles foolishness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Cor. 1:22-24).
The Cross defines our identity in Christ. But let us ask ourselves, in this moment, what have we done with the gift of the Cross, what have we done with the revelation of the face of God in Christ, with the revelation of the love of God that conquers hate. Many, in our age, do not know God and cannot encounter Him in Christ crucified. Many are in search of a love or a liberty that excludes God. Many believe they have no need of God.
Dear friends: let us this night allow His sacrifice on the Cross to question us. Let us permit Him to challenge our human certainties. Let us open our hearts to embrace Christ crucified on the cross for us. Let us cherish the crucifix, possess one and meditate on it as the certificate/evidence of our freedom and victory in life. WE ADORE YOU O CHRIST AND WE PRAISE YOU!