The Lamb will shepherd them
Good Friday is an amazing celebration of love, although it is not easy to see that through the suffering of the cross. I experienced it very personally during the third week of the Spiritual Exercises, which focuses on the Passion of Christ. There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, much less for his enemies! The sacrifice in this case has no equal, because it is the Son of the Living God.
In John’s Gospel and Revelation, Jesus is called the Lamb of God. This has its consequences also in the events of Good Friday. According to John’s message, Jesus died on the cross exactly at the moment when the Jews were getting ready for supper and were preparing the lambs that were to be eaten during Passover. He turns out to be the truest sacrificial Lamb.
When I was in the novitiate, I read many times the inscription on the cross in the chapel: “The Lamb will shepherd them” (Rev 7:17). Contemplating these words from the Apocalypse, I marveled at how God fills every space. He is lamb and shepherd, sacrifice and priest, God and man, alpha and omega. There is no experience with would not include His presence.
The veil of the Sanctuary
Synoptics all noted that during the death of Jesus “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mk 15:38). It was a breakthrough for me to realize what that means. The veil of the sanctuary in the Jerusalem temple separated the part accessible to the priests from the most holy place, where the High Priest could enter only once a year to offer incense. It was a physical reminder of the gulf between holy God and sinful people. By dying on the cross, Jesus bridges this gap. There is no more sacred and profane, the whole reality is permeated with God’s presence. I am reminded of this whenever it seems to me that God has more important things to do, then listen to me, that I am too small and too sinful to be close to Him. But the veil is not there anymore!
In the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, the most important thing for me is the Gospel. While on Palm Sunday we read the description of the passion according to one of the synoptic authors, on Good Friday we read it according to St. John. Here we see Jesus not so much suffering and martyred as full of glory, showing His true dignity as the King of the Universe. The first moment when this manifests itself is already the arrest in Gethsemane. When Judas comes with the cohort and they ask about Jesus of Nazareth, He replies “I am”. They turn away and fall to the ground, because this is not a simple answer, but the name of God Himself (Greek εγω ειμι, equivalent to the Hebrew JHWH). Jesus’ “I am” has been with me for a long time as a constant reminder that I am never alone, and He simply is. And that’s always enough.
One more moment of the Friday liturgy always evokes a lot of emotions in me. It is the beautiful, prolonged prayer of the faithful. In its extensive structure, it takes into account various spheres of our lives, but above all, it includes the circles of belonging to the Church, which were formulated in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. We pray not only for Catholics and Christians, but also for Jews, Muslims and all people of good will. The arms of the Church on Good Friday are wide open. However, the Heart of Jesus is always open to the greatest extent, so that everyone, without exception, can find their place there.