Good Friday:Source of Mercy
Good Friday:Source of Mercy
Message: By his humility - his suffering of love - the Father exalted Jesus - making him the source of mercy to all look to him. Yesterday at the Mass of the Last Supper I spoke about the Sacrament of Mercy and the Martyrs of Mercy: The Eucharist - Sacrament of Mercy; the Sisters killed in Yemen - Martyrs of Mercy. Today we remember the Source of Mercy - Jesus' suffering and death for us. To enter this mystery I begin with an account of how the Sisters died. It has some graphic parts that some parents may not want small children to hear. On Friday, March 4, the Sisters rose at their usual hour - 4:30 am.
They had morning meditation followed by Mass and chores. The Sisters each own only two blue and white saris so one they wear and one they wash. Finishing their tasks they had breakfast and said the apostolic prayers including the Prayer for Generosity. At 8 am two sisters went to the care home for men and two to the home for ladies. At 8:30 ISIS gunmen entered the compound killing the guard. Volunteers (Christian men from Ethiopia) ran to warn the sisters. The cleaning ladies screamed, "Don't kill the Sisters! Don't kill the Sisters!"
The gunmen caught Sisters Judith and Reginette, tied them to trees, shot them in the head and then smashed their skulls. Then they caught Marguerite and Anselm - the two terrified Sisters they likewise tied to trees, brutally killing them. According to the Sister who interviewed eyewitness, the smashing of the heads "has some evil connection with 'she will crush the head of the serpent' some kind of mockery or evil meaning." The gunmen left at about 10:15 after almost two hours of terrorizing the defenseless and killing 16 innocent people. Pope Francis denounced these killings as "diabolical" and referred to the Sisters as "martyrs." What can we learn from them? Especially on Good Friday what can we learn from them?
First and foremost, Jesus' suffering continues in the world. We can try to flee it or we can embrace it like the Sisters did. Every morning they offered their lives to Jesus in the Mass and the prayer for generosity. As disciples of Jesus we cannot remain passive in the face of suffering. Pope Francis referred to the "globalization of indifference" that allows these atrocities to happen.* Every day Christian are treated brutally and killed. Our government finally acknowledged the genocide against Christians. It took groups like the Knights of Columbus to bring pressure, but a week ago Secretary of State John Kerry at last denounced the persecution of Christians as genocide. Yet indifference continues and many ask, what can I do? For sure, we are little people but we do have the power of prayer and solidarity. And we can follow the example of those Sisters by putting mercy into action.
Retired Pope Benedict recently gave an interview. They asked him about the Year of Mercy. "Mercy," he said, "means God's participation in man's suffering." Pope Benedict clarified that Jesus' death is "not a matter of cruel justice" or "the Father's fanaticism." No, the mercy brought by Jesus shows that ultimately we can only overcome evil by "the suffering of love." The pope spoke about how the Father also suffers.** In my 44 years as a spiritual father I have some times experienced that. People bring me their heartbreaks and wounds - especially in Confession. I can do little except listen, pray and suffer with them. The Virgin Mary epitomizes that "suffering with" which is the mean of "compassion." Speaking of Mary, I cannot ignore the coincidence that this Good Friday falls on March 25. Why is that date significant? Well, it's exactly nine months before Christmas.
The Church knew biology. March 25 is the Annunciation - when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb. Jesus began his existence as you and I do: a fertilized egg, an embryo, a fetus - like the ones we see in the marvelous ultra sound pictures. St. Paul tells us that Jesus humbled himself to become a man like us - humbler still to death, death on a cross. By his humility - his suffering of love - the Father exalted Jesus making him the source of mercy to all look to him. I speak more about that on Easter Sunday. This evening we lift up Jesus crucified. We lift up the cross. Before we venerate the cross I ask you to join with me as I say that final prayer of the Sisters before they gave their lives. Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.