“What is most amazing about the Lord and his Passover? It is the fact that he achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid. Jesus did it for us, to plumb the depths of our human experience, our entire existence, all our evil. To draw near to us and not abandon us in our suffering and our death. Jesus was lifted high on the cross in order to descend to the abyss of our suffering. He experienced our deepest sorrows: failure, loss of everything, betrayal by a friend, even abandonment by God. By experiencing in the flesh our deepest struggles and conflicts, he redeemed and transformed them. His love draws close to our frailty; it touches the very things of which we are most ashamed. Yet now we know that we are not alone: God is at our side in every affliction, in every fear; no evil, no sin will ever have the final word. God triumphs, but the palm of victory passes through the wood of the cross. For the palm and the cross are inseparable.”
– Pope Francis
Prayer for Good Friday
Remember your mercies, O Lord, and with your eternal protection sanctify your servants, for whom Christ your Son, by the shedding of his Blood, established the Paschal Mystery. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Reminiscere miserationum tuarum, Domine, et famulos tuos æterna protectione sanctifica, pro quibus Christus, Filius tuus, per suum cruorem instituit paschale mysterium. Qui vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Today’s Gospel: The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John 18:1-19:42
The symbols in the following passion narrative represent:
N Narrator J Jesus O Other single speaker C Crowd, or more than one speaker
N Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kedron valley. There was a garden there, and he went into it with his disciples. Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. Knowing everything that was going to happen to him, Jesus then came forward and said,
J Who are you looking for?
N They answered,
C Jesus the Nazarene.
N He said,
J I am he.
N Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said, ‘I am he’, they moved back and fell to the ground. He asked them a second time,
J Who are you looking for?
N They said,
C Jesus the Nazarene.
N Jesus replied,
J I have told you that I am he. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.
N This was to fulfil the words he has spoken: ‘Not one of those you gave me have I lost.’
Simon Peter, who carried a sword, drew it and wounded the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, J Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?
N The cohort and its captain and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him. They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had suggested to the Jews, ‘It is better for one man to die for the people.’
Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest’s palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who was keeping the door and brought Peter in. The maid on duty at the door said to Peter,
O Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?
N He answered,
O I am not.
N Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others.
The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered,
J I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together: I have said nothing in secret. But why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught: they know what I said.
N At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying,
O Is that the way to answer the high priest?
N Jesus replied,
J If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out; but if there is no offence in it, why do you strike me?
N Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas, the high priest. As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him,
O Aren’t you another of his disciples?
N He denied it saying,
O I am not.
N One of the high priest’s servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said,
O Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?
N Again Peter denied it, and at once a cock crew.
They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves or they would be defiled and unable to eat the passover. So Pilate came outside to them and said,
O What charge do you bring against this man?
N They replied,
C If he were not a criminal, we should not be handing him over to you.
N Pilate said,
O Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.
N The Jews answered,
C We are not allowed to put a man to death.
N This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die.
So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him, and asked,
O Are you the king of Jews?
N Jesus replied,
J Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?
N Pilate answered,
O Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?
N Jesus replied,
J Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent me being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.
N Pilate said,
O So you are the king then?
N Jesus answered,
J It is you who say it. Yes, I am a king. I was born for this; I came into the world for this; to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.
N Pilate said,
O Truth? What is that?
N And with that he went out again to the Jews and said,
O I find no case against him. But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release the king of Jews?
N At this they shouted:
C Not this man, but Barabbas.
N Barabbas was a brigand.
Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him and saying,
C Hail, king of the Jews!
N and they slapped him in the face.
Pilate came outside again and said to them,
O Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case.
N Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.
O Here is the man.
N When they saw him the chief priests and the guards shouted,
C Crucify him! Crucify him!
N Pilate said,
O Take him yourselves and crucify him: I can find no case against him
N The Jews replied,
C We have a Law, and according to the Law he ought to die, because he has claimed to be the son of God.
N When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased. Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus,
O Where do you come from?
N But Jesus made no answer. Pilate then said to him,
O Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?
N Jesus replied,
J You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from above; that is why the one who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.
N From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the Jews shouted,
C If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar’s; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.
N Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated himself on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha. It was Passover Preparation Day, about the sixth hour. Pilate said to the Jews,
O Here is your king.
N They said,
C Take him away, take him away. Crucify him!
N Pilate said,
O Do you want me to crucify your king?
N The chief priests answered,
C We have no king except Caesar.
N So in the end Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out of the city to the place of the skull, or, as it was called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side with Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.’ This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was not far from the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate,
C You should not write ‘King of the Jews’, but ‘This man said: I am King of the Jews’.
N Pilate answered,
O What I have written, I have written.
N When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another,
C Instead of tearing it, let’s throw dice to decide who is to have it.
N In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled:
They shared out my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my clothes.
This is exactly what the soldiers did.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother,
J Woman, this is your son.
N Then to the disciple he said,
J This is your mother.
N And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home. After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed,
and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said:
J I am thirsty.
N A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said,
J It is accomplished;
N and bowing his head he gave up the spirit.
All kneel and pause a moment.
N It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath – since that sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found that he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it – trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth – and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture:
Not one bone of his will be broken,
and again, in another place scripture says:
They will look on the one whom they have pierced.
After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus – though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews – asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away. Nicodemus came as well – the same one who had first come to Jesus at night – time – and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was near at hand, they laid Jesus there.
A Good Friday Reflection on the Seven Last Words of Jesus
The Seven Last Words of Our Lord have, from the sixteenth century, been the subject of meditations of Good Friday. Fr Lawrence Lew OP’s set of reflections, the first of which is presented here, was first preached in Holy Week of 2022, during the Rosary Shrine’s annual “Holy Week Retreat”.
The fifth word (see Jn 19:28):
To all: I thirst.
When I hear these words of Christ, I always think of St Teresa of Kolkata and her Missionaries of Charity. In each of their convent chapels there will be a crucifix behind the altar, and next to the crucifix, these words, the fifth word of the dying Lord Jesus, will have been marked out on the wall: “I thirst”.
Traditionally, the scriptures and the Saints have spoken about the thirst of the human soul for God. Psalm 63, for example, says: “O God you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting like a dry weary land without water” (Ps 63:1), and St Augustine famously wrote in his spiritual autobiography that “our hearts are restless until they rest in God”. When I was a teenager, and as I was thinking about becoming a Catholic, both these sentences meant a lot to me. They seemed to speak about my deepest longing for God, my desire to know and experience the love of God, and so I became an inquirer, then a catechumen, and was baptised a Catholic, aged sixteen.
However, even before we can speak of our love, our longings and our desire for God, we must ponder and behold first of all the unfathomable love of God for man: a love that takes him to this day, Good Friday; a love that leads Christ to willingly suffer and be nailed to the cross. St John the Beloved Disciple said: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10). In going up to the cross, Christ is leading humanity as a shepherd leads his flock, through the “valley of the shadow of death”, and guiding us to the green pastures of paradise (see Ps 22), where he will satisfy the deepest thirst of the human soul: our longing for God, for happiness, for divine love. Jesus promises that “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14). So, yes, we can satisfy the thirst, the restlessness, the angst that we experience if we draw near to Christ; rejecting all that dehydrates us, we can “draw water from the wells of salvation” (see Is 12:3).
But drawing close to Christ – going to him and choosing to be with him – not only satisfies our thirst for love, but, more astoundingly, it also satisfies God’s longing for us, for our love. This is how the Saints have understood the thirst of Christ on the cross. As Mother Teresa said in one of her letters to her sisters:
At this most difficult time He proclaimed, “I thirst.” And people thought He was thirsty in an ordinary way, and they gave Him vinegar straight away; but it was not for that which he thirsted – it was for our love, our affection; that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His passion. He used, ‘I thirst’ instead of ‘Give Me your love’… ‘I thirst. ’ Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you.
In every generation, Christ has given us saints to remind us of his thirst for our love, attention and gratitude. To this day, the Lord continues to wait for us to show him our love; he waits for us especially in the Eucharist, in the tabernacle.
In June 1675, Jesus revealed his Sacred Heart to St Margaret Mary Alacoque and said to her:
Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in the Eucharist. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me that treat Me thus.
Hence, it is vital that we who are priests and religious should renew our love for the Eucharist, especially by adoring the Lord in the tabernacle and celebrating Mass with reverence, care and attention. And to all of us, the Lord asks: Will we not come and spend some time with him? Will we not come to church and adore him, love him, speak to him who is exposed on our altar day after day?
Only on this day, Good Friday, of all the days in the year, is the Blessed Sacrament not waiting in the tabernacle of our churches. On this day, the day when we commemorate the Lord’s death, the tabernacle is emptied, and our churches feel somehow devoid of life, emptied of the Presence, museum-like rather than a holy place for a real encounter with the living God. When we come into church without any regard or reverence for the holy and living God who dwells in the tabernacle, we turn this church building into just an empty shell or mere pitiful museum of our fragile memories. Without the Blessed Sacrament, without God, our life becomes emptied of all genuine meaning, and we fade away as a civilisation, as a community, as human beings.
Hence, the psalmist said: “You hide your face, they are dismayed” (Ps 104:29). On this day, Good Friday, the Blessed Sacrament is hidden away from us, and our tabernacles stand empty as a reminder that this greatest of gifts is not to be taken for granted. Rather, he is here for us, to lead us through the “valley of the shadow of death”, to be “the way, the truth and the life for us”, leading us to eternal life. He longs to love us and to help us: he thirsts for us to come to him and to love him, to realise our deep need of him, and so to desire and long for him.
For that is how we are made. As St Augustine said: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Therefore, from the tabernacle, in the Holy Eucharist, Christ calls out to us again and again: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:28-29). Daily, the Lord invites us to rest in him. At least once a week, on Sunday, he invites us to be at rest by coming to Holy Mass and giving that time and our attention, as far as is humanly possible, to him.
Christ thirsts for the chance to satisfy the deepest hunger of the human heart. He thirsts to give himself to you in the Eucharist. He thirsts for you to come to him and to let him love you.
Hence Mother Teresa wrote:
Jesus wants me to tell you again, especially in this Holy Week, how much love He has for each one of you – beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus – one to one – you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel – but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor…
Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The Devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes – to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes – He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe – You are precious to Him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet – only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are.
Let us end with the prayer that the Angel of Peace taught to the holy children of Fatima:
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.”
This reflection is extracted from our book Lenten Devotions: Stations and Meditations from the Rosary Shrine. Fr Lawrence Lew OP offers three powerful Lenten devotions: Stations of the Cross featuring photographs and meditations, the Canticle of the Passion based on words revealed to St Catherine de Ricci, and recollections on the seven last words of Jesus on the Cross.
Find more powerful Lenten devotions and reflections, and support the mission of CTS, by ordering your copy of Lenten Devotions today.
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