The Royal Throne of Christ the King
In the early morning hours of Friday, while he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was arrested, having been betrayed with a kiss. When the soldiers and guards said they were looking for Jesus the Nazorean, he replied, “I am” (Jn 18:5). He was then taken before the authorities, the high priest and Sanhedrin, where people made accusations against him. Jesus was asked, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?” He answered, “I am” (Mk 14:61-62).
Condemned for blasphemy, he was taken before Pilate who first had Jesus scourged and then condemned him to death even though he knew him to be innocent. Pilate literally washed his hands of the matter, giving in to the crowd who shouted, “Crucify him!”
When we walk into church on Good Friday, we notice that the sanctuary lamp is not lit. We do not genuflect because no one is there – the Tabernacle is empty. The Church intends for us to experience the sad emptiness and coldness of death. There is no Mass, but instead a Commemoration of the Passion of the Lord. Following the Liturgy of the Word, in which the entire Passion narrative is read, the solemn Adoration of the Holy Cross takes place. A cross is presented with the words, “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world,” to which the people reply, “Come, let us adore.” Then all are invited to come forward and feel the hard wood of the cross as we make an act of veneration. Although there is no Mass, Holy Communion is distributed because the Eucharist sustains us especially in dark times.
Pilate had asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” But Pilate was not interested in truth, famously asking, “What is truth?” It is a question that our contemporary age of relativism and aggressive secularism has adopted for itself in its own attempt to bleach out God from society.
Pope Francis observes that it is precisely on the Cross that the kingship of Jesus shines forth in divine fashion: “his royal throne is the wood of the Cross!” It is upon this throne of wood that “Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including the sin of all of us, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God….
”Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love, he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for us on the throne of the Cross. Christ’s Cross embraced with love never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.”
However, in order to rise with Christ to a new life of grace in the Resurrection, we must die to our old life of sin with him on the Cross. We must stand there at the foot of the Cross with Mary, whose soul was pierced as with a sword this day, watching her Son die. We come to the foot of the Cross because we recognize what Jesus endured for us. We realize the possibility of our redemption. In spite of our failures, our sins, our weakness, Jesus not only loves us, but he hung on the Cross for us. He shed his blood unto death for each of us. Now, today, he invites us, as he always has, to come to his Cross and see in it our salvation, our forgiveness, our newness.
After Jesus breathed his last, and his own side was pierced, the divine mercy of his precious blood and water poured forth from his side. Because the Sabbath was near, Mary had little time to hold Jesus in her arms before he was bound with burial cloths and laid in the tomb.
Jesus was dead. That should have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t.