Friday, April 18, 2014

The Silence of the Cross

What do we say about a day like this? Words threaten to cheapen the mystery. No words do justice to this reality that God died for me, and because of me. He died because of my sins, and to save me from them. And because no words can adequately address the mystery of the death of God, I want to reflect very briefly with you about silence.

Mary and John at the foot of the Cross
As we reflect over Jesus' Passion that we know so well, one of the first things that strikes us the noise of it all: the crowds shouting for Jesus' death, the soldiers beating him, the people ridiculing him on the cross. There is a lot of anger, and that anger is noisy. The noise of Good Friday makes the moments of silence all the more meaningful.

Throughout the whole trial, the times at which Jesus chooses to be silent in front of Caiaphas and Pilate are remarkable. The first reading says "Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." In his private conversations with Caiaphas and Pilate, and when he was in front of the crowds, there would have been opportunities to defend himself, to explain more fully who he was and what he was about, but Jesus knew that silence was the only answer when confronted with the mystery of human sin and redemption.

And then the silence of Jesus leads to the cross. On Calvary, Mary's silence is what catches our attention. Amidst the shouting and cursing, amidst the hammer and nails and spears and swords, Mary's silence strikes us as something holy, as something particularly right when everything else is so wrong. And so from the cross, Jesus gives John to Mary, and he gives Mary to John. In entrusting his mother to John, he also gives her to the Church, and to each of us, to be our mother.

Michelangelo's Pietà at St. Peter's Basilica
So Mary is our model of silence and of trust, trust that in the midst of a very wrong world, in a world that hates the God of Love, love will in fact win in the end. Picture Mary holding the body of her dead son. There is nothing more wrong than a parent holding the body of their dead child. It is the image of all hope being defeated. Yet we don't see Mary crying out in anger. All we see in Mary is a deep trust, trust that though all hope seems lost, somehow the God who has carried us this far will make even this right.Only this Mother and this Son provide any hope that something so wrong could be turned right.

So the only response for us to so great a mystery is silence. At this point, when the enemies of God appear to have their victory, we go to the tomb with Jesus, and we wait in silence. The liturgy of a Good Friday begins in silence, and it ends in silence. The joy of Easter will come, but for now, all we have is silent adoration of the mystery of the God who love us so much that he died for us. So from now until Easter, let a somber silence mark your lives. There is sadness today, but there is peace because we know how the story ends. If we join Mary and silently wait through these days, then we shall be present when the Resurrection breaks upon us. But for now, the only response to so great a mystery is silence.

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