Good Friday approaches and the cross of Christ looms large over the world. It looms large in our hearts too: witness young Eugene on his knees before it. Bitter are his tears as he realizes that it is love which is pinning Christ to that cross. Arms outstretched, hands and feet nailed firmly in place, the innocent Jesus suffers the darkest and starkest experiences of human existence. Victim of our sin, subject to all our weakness, he enters and undergoes the darkness of abandonment and death.
The abandonment begins early: in the garden, while Jesus is at prayer, drowsing disciples are oblivious to the plight of their master. “Could you not stay awake even one hour with me?” Betrayal in the form of a kiss comes from one of his inner circle. He is arrested and imprisoned, as his companions flee and he faces his future alone. A few faithful women remain, but even they are at a distance. Jesus’ loneliness culminates on the cross, as he ‘takes on the sin of the world’ and experiences the deepest abandonment of all: “My God, my God why have YOU abandoned me?”
Isolation, doubt, fear and pain: they are the outer boundaries of human experience and Jesus undergoes them and surrenders himself to them. “Into your hands, Father, I commit my spirit.” Into the abyss of death, the unknown darkness, the terror of the night, he lets himself fall. Into the silence and the depths, he entrusts himself to his father’s love.
It pierces Eugene to the heart, this realization of what Christ has endured for his sake. He feels the darkness, senses the depths into which Christ must plunge. At first, he is stricken with guilt, but, gracefully, gradually, as he gazes upon the pierced Body, it is replaced by gratitude. It floods in as Eugene realizes that God has undergone this for HIM, out of love for him, in order to pierce the darkness that surrounds his soul, in order to break the boundary of death that touches his life and all human life.
For Jesus’ trust is not misplaced. As he lets himself go into the hands of God, the heavens seem closed. Three days pass by. Suddenly, shockingly, the silence of the tomb is shattered: resurrection. An atomic blast of love rolls away the stone. God’s response to the Son’s abandonment is new life – eternal life, transformed life. The temple veil, the barrier between heaven and earth, death and life, is torn in two and nothing is the same anymore. Death itself has died.
The cross becomes Eugene’s centre. He feels himself embraced by love, bound no more by the burdens that weigh him down. Saved! Redeemed! Free! The words sing in his heart and he is impelled into a new fervor of faith and new mission. He simply must ‘go and tell the others’ – all the others – the Good News of Jesus Christ. His life’s desire is to witness to the Love expressedon that Cross – Love’s Depths, Love’s Power and Love’s Victory.
Eugene remains before the cross; he will not pass by. The question is, will we?
Sandra Prather HOMI