The Genius of the Liturgy

Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13—53:12 / Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 / John 18:1—19:42

There is a legend that
on his famous trip to the Far East—
the explorer Marco Polo
was seized and brought before
the dreadful conqueror Genghis Khan.

Desperate for conversation—
Marco Polo began to tell Khan
the story of Jesus.

Genghis Khan liked the story and
listened attentively,
much to his storyteller’s relief.

But something changed in
Khan when Marco Polo came to
the events of Holy Week.

Something changed when he
was told the story of Jesus’s betrayal—
and his trial—
and his scourging—
and his crucifixion.

As Marco Polo progressively went
through the story of Holy Thursday
and Good Friday—
Khan became more and more agitated.

As soon as Marco Polo announced the
last words of Jesus on the cross:
“It is finished”—
as soon as Jesus breathed his last—
the frightening Khan exploded.

“What did the Christian God do then?”
Didn’t he demand thousands of legions
from heaven to smite and destroy those
who would treat his son in such a way?

Marco Polo’s answer clearly
disappointed the great Khan—
and He remained unconverted.

I tell this story to point out
the strangeness of the Cross—
the strangeness—
the out-of-the-box way that
our salvation is achieved.

Of course, the great warrior Khan—
responded the way he did.

No one—
No one could have imagined such a story.

No one would expect such a
story from an all-powerful God—
from a God who can create something out of nothing—
from a God who just by His very word could
have put a stop to Good Friday—
from a God who does have legions of
angels at His disposal.

God’s ways are not the ways of the Genghis Khan!!!
God’s ways are not our ways!!!!

You know, there’s a genius to
the liturgies of Holy Week.

The liturgies demand that we take
each day and fully immerse ourselves
into that day—
into those specific events.

The liturgies invite us to draw out every ounce of
divine wisdom in God’s plan of salvation—
to consume every bite of
spiritual fruit from each part of the story.

Holy Thursday and institution of
the priesthood and the Eucharist—
Holy Thursday and the example that Jesus gives—
when the Master becomes the slave—
when the greatest becomes the least—
when God gets on His knees and washes our dirty feet—
and ask us to do the same.

God’s ways are not our ways.

And then there’s today—
the Good Friday liturgy—
the Veneration of the Cross.

I think Good Friday is the day that
is easiest for us to kind of skip over—
to jump ahead to Easter.

If understood, Good Friday can be difficult for us—
consciously or subconsciously—
to fully immerse ourselves into.

It can be just as painful—
as it can be hopeful.

That’s why, I think, Good Friday—
in the culture—
is treated just like any other day.

It didn’t use to be like that.

But today is just another day at work—
another day at school—
another day to go to the store—
another day to watch our favorite shows—
another day to surf the net—
another day to root on favorite baseball team.

I can remember being in the
Holy Land and making
the Way of the Cross.

The Way of the Cross winds through
the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem.

We had a pretty big group navigating
Jesus’ trip to Calvary–
and all around us, people were
just going about their business:

Buying and trading—
Laughing and drinking.

I can remember having an urge—
an urge from my gut—
to shout out and say,
“Please shut up for a second”—
“Please be still for a second”—
“Don’t you know what happened here?”

That’s what the Good Friday liturgy calls us to do.

We are asked to be quiet—
to pause our activities—
to reflect and contemplate and pray—
to come to grips with what happen today.

To fully immerse ourselves into
the Cross and Passion of Jesus Christ—
the Son of God.

The Good Friday liturgy invites us
to endure the story of the death of Jesus
in living color—
in all its vivid details—
to the see the Blood of the Son of God
dripping in the streets—
to watch the Son of God in His agony—
to watch Jesus die.

To realize that this is humanity’s judgement of God—
and to witness humanity’s violence against God.

And the Good Friday liturgy invites us
to realize our part in the story—
the true cost of our sins.

We are not innocent bystanders in
the events of Good Friday.

Crucify Him—Crucify Him.

And the Good Friday liturgy invites us
to realize how much we are loved—
that it’s us for whom Christ suffers and dies.

And the Good Friday liturgy invites to consider
God’s response to our violence against Him—

To reflect on God’s response to our sinfulness—
Not with legions of angels to burn it all down—
Not with the deserving wrath of God—

But with these words from the Cross:
“Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do.”

To Stop!!!
Just be quiet!!!

To Stop!!!—
To take a pause from our too distracted lives!!!

To Stop!!!—
And let it sink in—
-The condemnation—
-The mocking—
-The spitting—
-The physical abuse—
-The blood—
-The execution of the Son of God.

To Stop!!!
And ponder Jesus’ response:
“Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do.”

You see, the Good Friday liturgy invites us—
and helps us—
to immerse ourselves in the details and
the meaning of a fateful Friday 2000 years ago.

The pain—
Both His and ours.

And the unfathomable love and mercy—
and the great Hope that the all-powerful God
will bring something good from all of this violence.

And—And—that God’s ways are not our ways.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ—
after we venerate the Cross—
and after we partake in the Body and Blood of Our Lord—
We’ll process out in silence.

Again—Again—
the genius of the liturgy—
and the genius of having no
liturgy tomorrow during Holy Saturday.

The activity and the noise of the world
will no doubt go on—
go on tonight—
and go on tomorrow.

But cosmically—
in the divine realm—
there is an eerie—eerie silence
tonight and tomorrow.

The Son of God has been executed—
He lies dead in a tomb.

There should be silence—
There should be pause—
There should be reflection.

I want to end with a prayer by Father Henri Nouwen—
a prayer he wrote as he immersed himself in Good Friday.

Oh dear Lord, what can I say to you on this holy night?
Is there any word that could come from my mouth,
any thoughts,
any sentence?

You died for me,
you gave all for my sins,
you not only became human for me
but also suffered the most cruel death for me.
Is there any response?

I wish that I could find a fitting response.

But in contemplating your
Holy Passion and Death,
I can only confess humbly to you
that the immensity of your divine love
makes any response seem totally inadequate.

Let me just stand and look at you.

Your body is broken—
your head is wounded—
your hands and feet are split open by nails—
your side is pierced.

Your dead body now rests in the arms of your Mother.

It’s all over now.
It is finished.
It is fulfilled.
It is accomplished.

Sweet Lord,
gracious Lord,
generous Lord,
forgiving Lord,
I adore you,
I praise you,
I thank you.

You made all things new
through your passion and death.

Your cross has been planted
in this world as a sign of hope

Let me always live under your Cross, O Lord,
and proclaim the hope of your Cross unceasingly.

Amen

Holy Spirit 03/30/2018

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