But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out (Jn 19:33-34). With that thrust of the centurion’s lance it appeared that all was lost. The long sought for messiah, the promise of Jesus appeared to be no more. His healings, exorcisms, words, and teachings were now nailed to the cross, that dismal sign of torture. Rome continued to brutally occupy Israel. Might appeared to continue to triumph over right. Darkness and the fullness of it, pride, betrayal, weakness, fear, corruption, and ego, all seemed to have won the day.
We ourselves, may have, may presently, or will be in a similar situation, from our own perspective or experience, as the disciples were. A place where all may appear to be hopeless, where what was promised and what has been hoped for seems to be dashed to pieces, where the rug may feel like it has been pulled out from under us, where up seems to be down and down up, where all may appear to be lost.
But the event of the crucifixion is not the end of the story, but the continuation of the Paschal Mystery. The Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity became one with us in our humanity, lived our life, experienced our life in all things but sin, yet through his Passion, he became a magnet. Like moths attracted to light, Jesus took upon himself the sin of the world, and entered into the most unique of human experiences, our death. With the piercing of his side, even his heart was pierced for us and blood and water flowed.
The Son of God, even in his death mirrored the reality of God within himself; where the Father pours himself out, all that he is to the Son, and the Son receiving all the Father is, returning, giving all he has received, all that he is to the Father holding nothing back. Jesus, repeated this same act of exchange on earth as he does in heaven. Jesus gave all that he is to us, for us. He loved us into existence, then came to save us from ourselves, becoming one with us, so we could truly and fully be redeemed, by loving us into his death.
Into his death, he experienced utter God forsakenness to the brink of complete abandonment, complete emptiness, just as the blood and water poured forth from his side, Jesus was pouring all he was out of himself for us. In that act, his grace poured out on the world, building upon the natural order of his creation. He would experience, with those who had totally turned within themselves and separated themselves from their birthright, their relationship with God, to win them back by giving himself to them in love. Then, from that very moment of complete emptying, he was pulled back by the Love of God the Holy Spirit, who is the Love shared between God the Father and God the Son, the divine unity of the Holy Trinity.
Jesus rose again. He conquered death and the grave. This was no mere resuscitation but a new birth. Jesus is the first born of the new creation, and we who share in his Baptism become indelibly marked, conformed to this new creation. We are part of the story of Salvation History. We have a part to play in the redemption of the world. All was not lost on the cross that day on Golgotha, the hill of the skull. That day was the beginning of our rebirth.
When we face trials and tribulations, when all seems lost, may we look to the Crucifix, and see not a morbid death, but the infinite love of God. In that wound on the side may we see the pouring out of Jesus’ mercy. May we see in the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the totality of how much he understands what we are going through, because he went through it for us. When we are going through our own time of the cross, know that the same power of love that brought the Son back from the brink of separation from the Father, is only a word or phrase away from our accessing the same power as well. Jesus, I Trust in You!
May we not take the gift of Jesus giving his life for us for granted. May we resist the temptations of despair, fear, and anxiety, and the lures of power, pleasure, wealth, and honor. Let us not pull within ourselves, bury our head in the sand, or keep others at arm’s length. Let us instead open our mind and heart to receive the love of the Father, and so love him and our neighbor in return. Let us pour out ourselves for one another, will each other’s good, and seek to empower one another. May we strive to be people of integrity and courage, to stand up for the welfare of those on the peripheries, to embrace the will of God and live it.
May we call on the name of Jesus when tempted, meditate on the crucifix or image of the Sacred Heart, so to receive his strength. In this way we can say with the same confidence and assurance as Paul, “Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?… Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us” (cf. Romans 8:35-37). Let us also resist seeking grandiose acts of love, so to draw attention to ourselves, but instead, today and each day, seek the path of the little way of St. Therese of Lisieux and echoed by St. Mother Theresa, “Do little things with great love.”