Friday, April 14, 2006

A Good Friday Meditation

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are rich material for meditation. St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged us to use our imaginations in meditation, and in doing so, we can be blessed with powerful prayer experiences. When we imagine ourselves in the midst of what historically happened to Jesus, we can feel more keenly what the Lord endured and has won for us. We may in fact feel (more sharply than we bargained for) a deeper sense of sin. But that is always a gift and one which will lead us more deeply into love with true Love Himself.

The following is a meditation I wrote several years ago, on a Good Friday. As I reflect this Lent on my life, I see how miserably I fail at Christ's command to love Him in everyone I meet.

And yet we beat on, as Nick Carraway said, boats against the current -- but, in the case of a Christian, we are not borne back ceaselessly into the past, but can trust that Christ our Redeemer will propel us, miserable failures and all, into the future -- a future that, God willing, includes eternity with Him.


It is Good Friday. I have spent the days of Lent praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, daily envisioning myself to be within each one. This has been sobering, sad and frightening. Today, I reflect on what I have “seen” as I’ve placed myself in these terrible, beautiful mysteries.

I see myself, first of all, abandoning Jesus. I abandon Him in favor of sleep, as He prays in agony in the garden. Next, I see myself holding the whip that scourges Him. It is I who have placed the painful crown of thorns on His head. I heft the weight of the Cross onto His shoulder, indifferent to His pain. Finally, and most horribly, I see myself driving the nails into His hands and feet. I am the cause of His pain, I prompt the spilling of the Blood that will save me, my sins bringing on the death that will redeem me. With every blow to a nail, I see a sin I have committed: BAM! I sin. BAM! I sin again. BAM! Another, greater sin... I drive in the nails and see that He is in agony as He bears the weight of each and every sin, every blow. Tears stream down my face as I pound on the nails and I know how horribly I have hurt Him.

Finally, exhausted, I stop pounding and collapse. His blood has spattered over me until I am covered with it. I cannot bear it. What is this mystery, this paradox? It is the shame and the glory of the Cross. Because although I have done this to Him, He loves me. He loves me. He allowed me to do this and He loves me. He knew I would do this and still He loves me. He sees that I will wound His body again, and yet He loves me. How can He love me when I have caused Him such grievous pain?

“I do not love you for the good you do,” He seems to say, “or withhold my love for the bad...I love you because I made you. Because you are Mine. Come to Me ... I forgive you. You didn’t know what you were doing.”

And suddenly He is off the cross and embracing me, bathing me in His blood, the precious blood that I spilled, the Blood I treasure and do not deserve. He holds me, covering me in it and banishes every pain and sin -- the enormous and terrible sins -- can it be? He forgives me. He loves me. I still cannot understand or bear it, a love so great.

What can I give him in return? How do I repay such a love? How will I surrender myself to him completely? I cannot do it, I think, collapsing into His warmth and His strength. I cannot repay Him.

“Love me,” He says. That is all. “Love me.”

His words bring a peace beyond anything I can describe. He has forgiven and held me, calmed me, bathed me in His precious blood, and now He has spoken to me. He wipes me clean and prepares to send me on my way. “Go and love Me,” He repeats, as he readies me for a journey. “Love Me in everyone you meet. Remember when you didn’t know or understand how much you grieved me; some of those you meet will not know either. Tell them. Tell them about Me. Love them and pray for them. And I will be with you always.”

He is clean now, too, and clothed in white, radiating brilliant unbearable light. He practically shoos me away. “Go now, and love Me,” He says again.

Reluctantly, I begin to walk away. I want to stay with Him, to be with Him like this every moment of every day, but He tells me it’s not time for that. I have felt His embrace, felt the warmth of Him whom my heart loves; I have known the sweetness of undeserved forgiveness. It’s time to go and share the news. It’s time to love Him in everyone I meet.

I walk away feeling both sad and joyful, knowing that I will be counting the minutes, the hours and days, the years, until I can be with Him in eternity.

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