In the final scene of the 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan, a now old Private James Francis Ryan is found kneeling among thousands of white crosses at the American Cemetery in Normandy. At the grave of Captain John H. Miller, whose mission was to locate and rescue him following the deaths of his three brothers, Ryan spoke:
“My family is here with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I would feel coming back here. Every day, I think of what you said to me that day on the bridge, that I should try to live my life the best I could. I hope that it was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”
In the Passion Narrative from the Gospel of John (18:1-19:42), God’s Divine mission is being fulfilled. Beginning with multiple betrayals by those Jesus had personally chosen to follow Him, Our Lord gives up His life after unimaginable humiliation and suffering at the hands of well—you and me! As the prophet Isaiah (52:13-53-12) declared:
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.
Are we worth it? Jesus thinks so and reminds us: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11)
But still, with human minds, we wonder: How can the Lord continue to love us when, two-thousand years after the Crucifixion, we increasingly flee from His Commandments, words, and mission? For an answer, the prophet Isaiah (55:8) offers this regarding the mind of God: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”
On Good Friday, Jesus fulfills His Redemptive mission, a mission given Him by the Father. The mission offers us a gift that can never be earned; rather, only received.
Regarding God’s gift of salvation and eternal life, may we ask ourselves: What have we done with and what are we doing with this gift? Are we living our lives the best we can? Are we loving others the way Jesus loves them?