Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16,5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears
Today is too solemn an occasion to reflect on some particular detail of the Passion. It is a day to stand in total, silent awe before the crucified Lord, to contemplate on the central symbol of God’s love for us. Isaiah is eloquent in asking us to do this:
As the crowds were appalled on seeing him – so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human –
so will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him;
for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before:
‘Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’
The mystery before us is ‘appalling’ because God’s own Son is so ‘disfigured’, that he looks ‘no longer human’. At the same time the crowds are ‘astonished’ at the sight, and even the kings are ‘speechless’ in front of something ‘never seen or heard before’. ‘Who could believe’ that ‘the power of the Lord could be revealed’ in this manner?
Could God’s Omnipotent Power be revealed like this? What kind of omnipotence is this? Power revealed by powerlessness?
The “why” question had been asked by everyone on that Good Friday – by Mary, John, Judas, Peter, Magdalene and Joseph of Arimathea. Why did God permit this? Ironically Jesus himself asked that question: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” This is a question that all of us ask when we feel totally impotent in front of massive evil, when a loved one dies, when a tsunami washes away thousands of people, when war kills tens of thousands.
And the exasperating part is that God never seems to answer. There, we are mistaken! He answers every time, but with the same “why” question. There is a beautiful hymn sung in all the Churches during the Liturgy of the Veneration of the Cross, called the Reproaches: “My people, what have I done to you? How have I hurt you? Answer me!” God throws the ball into our court with a reproach for reproach, with a ‘why’ for a ‘why’. Not only on that Good Friday, but every day.
God is, of course, omnipotent. But it is the omnipotence of Love, because ‘love’ is his very nature. And love makes him powerless, in front of the loved one. This is actually a daily experience even in human life. The mother becomes weak in front of a son, the lover in front of the beloved. This is the only explanation we can ever offer for what happened on Good Friday. We are all bound to answer God’s Question: “Why? What harm have I done to you?”