On Good Friday, the Cross of our Saviour occupies the Centre of the Church’s liturgy. Participating in the way of the Cross, Christians manifest their desire to follow the Lord more closely. In His real passion, His friends deserted Him. The evangelist John reports to us that only two disciples made it up to the cross, namely, His mother Mary and the disciple that the Lord loved. This is to show that one needs true love in order to bear the pain of the Cross. The goal of the journey of discipleship is to become a beloved disciple who is ready to stand under the Cross in order to see the true identity of Jesus.
For a more meaningful participation in both the way of the Cross and the veneration of the Cross, we have to understand why the Cross is a very important sign for Christians. The Romans applied crucifixion as the worst death punishment for criminals. BUT Jesus transformed the Cross into the very sign of His self-sacrificing love. He says that: „There is no greater love than one who gives up one’s life for his friends (John 15:13). On the Cross Jesus manifests this love, for the one who loves no burden is too heavy to carry. Love moves Him to be broken, so that He may heal human brokenness. He is in solidarity with the pain and suffering of humanity of all times. In another place, Jesus says: “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). When we venerate the Cross, we are, in a way, drawn closer to Jesus so that we may understand how far love took him.
While He hang on the Cross, Jesus spoke seven words that are reported to us by the evangelists: Father, forgive them (Lk 23:34); This day you will be with me in paradise (Lk 23:43); Behold your son (John 19:26); My God, why have you forsaken me? (Mk 15:34); I thirst (John 19:28); It is finished (John 19:30); Father, into your hands I commend my spirit (Lk 23:46). These words summarize the teaching of our Saviour. One may wish to appropriate to oneself one of the seven words, so as to internalize the sentiments of the heart of the divine Saviour in His last hour. The shortest of the words is: “I thirst.” (John 19:28) With this word, Jesus speaks out from the depth of his Heart the thirst for a drink of love. The creator longs for the creatures’ response. He has given the true definition of love by giving his life for his friends. He now expects a love response. As you venerate the crucified Lord, ask Him to draw you to Himself and to awaken in you a thirst for Him! The encounter between the Lord’s thirst and your thirst will be the fulfilment of all the longings of your heart. D “The works of God are born and grow at the foot of the cross” St Daniel Comboni May the veneration of the Saviour’s Cross increase in each one of us the capacity to love genuinely and open our hearts to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters. In the end it is love that will have the final word. In this way the celebration of the Lord’s passion will increase our compassion and sensitivity to the needs of others.
Fr. Anthony Kimbowa Kibira, mccj