From the cross– a flood of sanctifying waves

Homily April 6, 2012  Good Friday

Rev Ted Baenziger, CSB
St Basil Chapel, University of ST Thomas Houston

Let up pick up the drama from the moment Jesus talks with his mother.

  • “Woman, behold your son.” 

His concerns are for the ones that love him. This is not just a son taking care of family matters as his life ends, although family IS important, and his mother does need someone to be with her both during the crisis and afterwards, for she has no defender. Interestingly, although some claim Jesus had brothers and sisters, none of them is here, none of them will take care of her. Rather it is the disciple he loves, ourselves, the everyman everywoman Christian, that is called upon here. She is the mother of the savior; we are his heirs, and we share the same mother in Mary. She is also symbol of the Church itself, bearing the Christ for others, sharing in his sufferings, pierced herself, with the sword of sorrow, Mater dolorous.  Do we accept her? Why of course, she is our mother in faith.

  • “I am thirsty.” 

This word of Jesus is His only human expression of His physical suffering. Jesus is now in shock. The wounds inflicted upon him in the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the nailing upon the cross are now taking their toll, especially after losing blood on the three-hour walk through the city of Jerusalem to Golgotha on the Way of the Cross. He was dehydrated as he had not taken any food or water for long hours. The sweat, blood loss and torturing heat would have drained all his energy and strength.  The Messiah who offered living waters to the Samaritan woman that she would never thirst (John 4) was thirsty. It was not just the physical thirst but a spiritual thirst that desires the salvation of all humanity. His thirst could be quenched when humanity repents and comes back to him. The Church has the task cut out to invite people who are thirsty to drink the living waters.

  • “It is finished”

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit. It is now a fait accompli. This last  word is Jesus’ recognition that his suffering is over and his task is completed. Jesus was obedient to the Father and gave his love for mankind by redeeming us with His death on the Cross. This is a grand statement. It was personal fulfillment of the task Lord Jesus had undertaken to complete in the world. The ‘wages of sin’ which is death has been paid finally. His humiliation, disgrace and sufferings were complete. So, the redemption of humanity is complete.  It also means that all requirement of Law has been fulfilled. All aspirations of humanity for forgiveness of sins have been fulfilled. The prophecies foretold have been fulfilled. The highest form of sacrifice that demonstrates ultimate love has been complete and displayed for humanity to see and consider. 

Handing over his spirit, to us, to the church is about to be born from his side. His spirit is holy, the most holy one. He comes to God the Father (the handing over is to him), and he sends that spirit, the advocate, to all in the church. The piercing of Jesus’ side prefigures the Sacraments of Eucharist (blood) and Baptism (water), as well as the beginning of the Church. Origen wrote “Christ has flooded the universe with divine and sanctifying waves. For the thirsty he sends a spring of living water from the wound which the spear opened in His Side. From the wound in Christ’s side has come forth the Church, and He has made her His Bride.”

The great Western Bishop, St Augustine wrote “There it was that the gate of life was opened, from there the sacraments of the Church flow; without these one does not enter true life.”

Today as we contemplate the Passion we also plumb the mystery and meaning of the Church. We are members of His Body. She was born from the wounded side of the Savior. He betroths her in His great self-emptying on the Altar of the Cross. Through her Sacraments, Jesus, the head of the Body, continues to feed us all with the divine life we need to enter more fully into the new communion which is ours through this saving Paschal mystery. This nascent church is not yet formed except in death. All the mysteries of sacrament and salvation through Christ the victim are present here, and thus we celebrate Pentecost right now in the adoration of the cross, for this is the birth of the church, just as the resurrection (handing over his spirit) is in the act of dying.

It is now time for our prayers of petition to go to the Father through the crucified and living Christ, so that, through the Holy Spirit, God may renew the face of the earth..

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