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Good Friday, 2019: Nearer, my God, to Thee

“Near the Cross of Jesus stood his mother.” Once upon a time, she had been nearer still to him: when he was in her womb, when he was in the crib. But those former nearnesses did not yet have the depth and maturity of her nearness to the Cross. In those days, Mary was filled with the joy of the incarnation. In these days, her sorrows seem to make the memory of those days disappear altogether. At the Cross, she is now working through the implications of the few words she had given thirty years earlier to the Angel, “let it be done to me according to your word.” She is letting it be done, so that Jesus can say, “it is accomplished.”


The naked and bloody body of the child born from her womb is now the naked and bloody body of her crucified Son. The blood at his birth was hers; the blood at his death was his. The first blood gave him human life; the second blood gives eternal life to all, including to her. The two-fold nakedness, at birth and at death, echoes the words of Job: “naked I came into this life and naked I shall leave it: the Lord has given, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” The nakedness is as if to say, “see, all you who pass this way, that I am truly a man.” Yes, a man born of woman by the Spirit so that humanity might be born again in the Spirit.


We cannot know what abyss of comfort it must have been for Jesus to see his mother stand near his Cross. What we do know is that she could not have been anywhere else. Before any apostles were ever called, she was called. Before any apostle ever preached, she pondered the Word in her heart. Before the names of Peter, James and John were known to her, she was known to her Son as no other man or woman would ever be known to him. Before Jesus told the apostles about his impending death, she already sensed it was coming.


If we want to understand what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus, it is to her that we must go for no-one knows his ways, his will or his love more than she. If we want to know what the Church of Christ is, then she is the one to teach and show us, because she is its first and greatest member; she is its burning heart; she is the treasure of its memory; she more than the apostles stood at its source, not at the festive Last Supper, but at the raw and bare reality of Calvary.


For you and I to step near the Cross of Jesus is a daunting reality. But with her, like John, we can do it. Life will bring, or perhaps has already brought, to our lives the stark reality of the Cross. Nobody wants it, yet nobody can escape it. While near the Cross is a difficult place to be, there is no better place to be and there is no better company to have at its foot than that of the mother of Jesus. She will not pretend to take away our pain, but she will help us bear it. The anger and frustration that pain and suffering bring us only make our pain worse. She will calm our anger and soothe our frustration. The irresistible need to cry out in complaint to the Son of God on the Cross, “Why me? Why my child? Why my family? Why, why, why?” will not be stifled by the mother. But she will hold us as we cry out and as Jesus responds to us, “behold your mother.”


Today we will all come near to the Cross with deep-felt love and devotion to venerate it and to adore the One who hung upon it for our sakes. On other days, the Cross will come near to us, in our lives, to call us back from sin, to wake us up, to draw us to itself. But even better would be that, every day, we willingly go near to the mother at the foot of the Cross to draw from her the strength to endure it and to witness to its power in our lives. Let us not only venerate the Cross with our lips, bow or genuflection, but by raising it up high in our minds and hearts as we go about our daily lives. Imperceptibly, but really, we will draw others to the mother and to the Son and to the throne of his infinite mercy upon the wood of the Cross.


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world!