April 7, 2023
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. John 19:16–18
The Passion of our Lord begins. Our Gospel narrative today begins with Jesus going out to a garden with His disciples after the celebration of the Passover meal. It’s shocking to consider that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity permitted such injustice to befall Him. Though perfect in every way, He allowed Himself to be treated as a criminal, to suffer at the hands of sinners, and to die an agonizing death.
One of the first shocking events to take place in the Garden where Jesus was arrested was the sheer number of soldiers sent to arrest Him. A “band of soldiers” could mean that as many as 600 soldiers were sent to accomplish this deed. Going out with “lanterns, torches and weapons” reveals that it was dark. The symbolism of darkness is significant in John’s Gospel, portraying the spiritual darkness that permeated that night. Within that darkness, one of Jesus’ own Apostles betrayed Him, leading this massive number of soldiers to arrest Him.
Upon Jesus’ arrest, Peter, the soon-to-be leader of the Apostles, denies, for the first time, that he even knows Jesus. This happens while Jesus is interrogated by Annas, a respected former High Priest. The fact that a High Priest was the first to question Jesus shows that even those who are “religious” can, at times, be brutal instruments of attacks upon the faith. After Annas, Jesus is brought to Caiaphas, then acting as High Priest. During that interrogation, Peter denied our Lord a second time and then a third. These religious leaders concluded that Jesus must die. Recall that Caiaphas had previously argued that “it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people” (John 11:50). In fact, those words of Caiaphas were an unintended prophecy, predicting the death of our Lord for all the people.
Since the Jewish authorities did not have the power to crucify someone, they relied on the Roman governor Pilate. Although Pilate shows little interest in meeting their request, He does so out of fear of an uprising and reprisals from Caesar. Pilate also humiliates Jesus, scourging Him and permitting his soldiers to mock Him. Little did they know that the purple cloak with which they covered Jesus and the crown of thorns they placed on His head were symbols of Jesus’ true Kingship, exercised by His defeat of death itself in the battle for the salvation of souls.
When Jesus was crucified, He hung on the Cross between two thieves. As He agonized for three hours, He permitted His mother to stand by Him, entrusted her to the disciple John and John to her, drank of the wine to quench His thirst, spoke His final words, “It is finished,” and then He bowed His sacred head and handed over His spirit.
John’s Gospel relates to us that after Jesus was dead, a soldier pierced His side with a lance, and blood and water flowed out. This final gift from our Lord has been understood as a symbol of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. It was truly finished. The King had won the battle. Death was defeated, and the means by which we are to share in that victory was given by the institution of the Sacraments.
Reflect, today, upon this most sacred scene. There is no end to the depth and breadth of the meaning of every action that took place that holy day. Every detail reveals the love of God. Every symbol points to the reality of what took place. Every word our Lord spoke is for us to hear, to receive and to believe. The meaning of Good Friday is beyond our human comprehension. Nonetheless, on this holy day we are called to prayerfully penetrate the meaning of this perfect act of love, so that we will more fully share in the grace given to us by our Lord.
My crucified Lord, from the perspective of human beings, Your death was horrific. But from the perspective of Your Father in Heaven, Your death was the glorious fulfillment of His will. Through Your Passion and death, You exercised Your Kingship by taking authority over sin and death and commanding it to cease. May I stand with Your dear mother this day, dear Lord, and gaze with gratitude and awe on what You have done for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Day One: Novena in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday
Good Friday is the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena
Rosary – Sorrowful Mysteries (with Scripture)
This Day You Will Be With Me
Holy Week Poem
The Prayer of the Peasant of Ephesus
Holy Week Poem
Saint of the Day – Saint John Baptist de la Salle, Priest
Not celebrated as a liturgical memorial this year because it falls on Good Friday