For Missourians, two words, show me, proclaim to all that its residents are skeptical of matters and not easily convinced. Let’s face it. In our daily lives of parents, friends, spouses, families, teachers, and colleagues, we are a show-me society. With expectations set, we are called upon to get things done. As the saying goes: “Words are one thing, but, in the end, actions ring louder than words.”
A few days ago, I received a text message and picture from a couple that I had prepared for marriage and presided at their wedding. It was a happy one. Their first child, a son, had been born! With mom on his right and dad on his left, this 7-pound miracle was now squarely at the center of their lives. For a long time, I looked at that picture, smiled, and thought: Their love for each other and this baby is so evident that it would convince even the most skeptical resident of Missouri.
It also reminded me of a story that I had read some years ago. One day, a priest was preaching on the topic of love. For several minutes, he used eloquent words and examples until, with great suddenness, he stopped. For several moments, there was a long pause, one I’m sure that caused some in his congregation to think that something was seriously wrong. But in reality, this priest had been struck by a powerful image and was simply taking a moment to collect his thoughts. After a time, he decided to point out a young mother in the front pew who was holding a small infant in her arms and ended his homily with just three words: “There is love.” And nothing was left to say.
On their long journey in search of the Christ child, I have sometimes wondered about the three kings. In following that star to that sacred spot in Bethlehem, did they not also hear a soft whisper upon their hearts? “If you find me, I will show you my love.”
Some years later, about thirty to be exact, Jesus embarked upon His public ministry. From its beginning, Jesus was on a whirlwind tour of teaching, doing, and loving. For those of us who like to characterize the events around us, we might call it the “Greatest Love Ever Known to Man.” It is about Jesus (who is love) showing mankind that He loves us.
On the day of our baptism, doesn’t Jesus do the same? As the water is poured upon our heads, He whispers to us: “Follow me. Come and See. I’ll show you my love.” And in filling us with His graces, Jesus opens our eyes so that we might see the many possibilities for our lives.
But on Good Friday, as we have just heard in the Gospel of John (18:1-19:42), an unpleasant and unsettling reality unfolds. In entering into this event, we might wonder how we would have fit in. When asked if we were one of Jesus’ disciples, would we have denied this and fled? Or would we be the High Priest sitting in judgement and condemning? Or would we be a member of the crowd simply going along to get along? Or would we be Pontius Pilate, who ultimately washes his hands of the affair? Or would we be the soldiers carrying out the orders? Or would we be a simple bystander, content that this “problem” is someone else’s concern. While we might be tempted to say that we would have been among the faithful women who stayed with Jesus at the foot of the Cross, it is unlikely that this would be true.
- For our sins would have led us to participate in this event.
- For our sins were the reason for this event.
- For after the Fall, sin was in our nature.
- And with a fallen nature, we needed a Redeemer.
It is now past 3 in the afternoon and the skies have darkened. The drama of Calvary has come and gone. The dust has settled. Jesus has died. And we wonder: What have we done to Him?
In the distance, we hear Mary weeping as she attempts to make sense of this tragedy within her heart. In her gentle and loving arms, she holds her son’s innocent, sinless, and lifeless body—-a body that has taken upon it every sin known to mankind. And in doing so, He has given up his life for us. So that we might have life.
As we venture closer to Our Lady, we recoil and once more ask: What have we done?
In beholding Jesus’ bruised and beaten body, we remember His words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
On Good Friday, the question is this: If Jesus is truly our friend and the center of our lives, how do we show our love for Him?