The Heart of Good Friday
This past Sunday, I sat in Mass both crowded and slightly irritated as my 5-year-old poked me in the face with her palm for the fifteenth time. The Gospel was long, as I knew it would be, but I knew I needed it. The church is so wise to give us the Liturgical Seasons. We humans require built-in reminders of our need for Christ’s birth, our need for his death and our need for his resurrection. This year’s Palm Sunday reading from Matthew spoke a particular sentence that resonated in my prayer for the rest of the Mass and the days that followed: “The whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matthew 27:25).
In context, this phrase occurs when Pilate is facing the crowd that is screaming back at him demanding Jesus’ death. He washes his hands symbolizing that he is letting go of responsibility for this decision, and the people respond in a way that is all too willing to take the blame for the blood of Jesus. Many readers have interpreted this verse as a curse. Some believed that the Lord would punish them for their role in the death of the Christ. Yet I realized in hearing this Scripture that I am a member of that crowd. I am responsible and condemned. I have chosen Jesus’ death. I have sinned and broken more than a rule… I have broken a heart.
Yet, in God’s mind-blowing-style, this is exactly the point. While some may consider it a curse, it is instead my only hope. I need the blood of Jesus to be upon me and upon my children. Yes, I am the one who was replaced on that day. Jesus died the death that was meant for me, and rather than cursing me for it, he gives me his reward. It is only by his blood that I can be washed and healed.
“No greater love is there than this, than to lay down one’s life for a friend” (John 15:13). These are the words of Jesus himself-- the one who went to the end of love and beyond. Of course, we know, Jesus laid down His life as our ransom, and that should’ve been the end of the story. However, after Jesus’ death, His tortured and disfigured body was left behind on the cross. After he died “one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:34). It was as if Jesus was saying in this moment, “Take it all! Empty my heart! Take every last drop! Please don’t question my love for you, I want you to have every ounce of me!”
As the soldiers stood there, literally covered in Jesus’ blood, they shuddered as “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:51-53). It was enough to make these violent men suddenly cry out, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (v54).
Jesus invites us to not be afraid to hide in his wounds. He invites us to live in his heart. He invites us to a mercy that has been paid for whether we accept it or not. He invites us to satisfy his thirst for love. He invites us to drink of his desire. He invites us to share in the cup of his Eucharist. He invites us to allow his blood to run with ours. All we have to do is just say yes.