Today, we – the Church Universal and the whole of humanity – come to the crossroads of history. We come to the Cross on which our Savior gave up his life as a ransom for ours so that we might have life eternal. On Good Friday, the Cross stands at the center of our thoughts and our liturgy as the living symbol of God’s all-embracing love of us, of Jesus’ extension of that love as he stretched his arms, a love voiced in his plea, “I thirst” – the Lord thirsts for our love – as his love is made visible in his pain, suffering and death he endured for our sake.
As we shout, “Crucify him,” during this liturgy and see ourselves as the soldiers pounding the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet by our sins, and as we also stand at the foot of the Cross at the side of Mary as the beloved disciple, and as his witnesses in today’s world, with the eyes of faith we see in the Cross more than just failure, despair and death. As believers now, like the centurion and the Apostles we acclaim, “Truly, this is the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).
What makes it possible for us to see beyond the ruined body of Jesus of Nazareth nailed to the Cross is our Spirit-filled faith that helps us see the reality of our redemption and salvation. What brings us to the foot of the Cross today, and leads us to venerate the Cross at the Good Friday liturgy, is our understanding of who Jesus is and what he accomplished for you and me.
We are here – and cannot be elsewhere – because in the Cross we recognize the sign of God’s love for us and the new life, the fresh start that it signifies for each of us. Through his divine love, the fullness of love in the Trinity, we can attain God’s forgiveness when Jesus embraces us as he once embraced the Cross, by which he redeems the world and each of us, showing us that we too can conquer sin and death.
We also recognize here in the figure that graces our crucifixes in our churches and homes, and is made truly present again on the altar, that no matter how bruised or battered we might be because of our own sinfulness or due to challenges we are facing, the Lord’s love and mercy are always there for us. If we turn to him even in our last breath and contritely ask him to remember us, Jesus will say to us, “Amen, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Cross reminds us we are never alone and never without hope.
Knowing Jesus’ Passion ultimately culminated in his Resurrection, and knowing that the transformative power of his love redeems us to new life and can help us endure our own crosses in redemptive suffering, there is no other place for us to be. “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.” This prayer of Saint Alphonsus Liguori for the Way of the Cross offers words we can take to heart on this Good Friday and every day.