The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is perhaps one of the most moving meditations upon which a person can embark. Some people find themselves profoundly moved by the humility of Our Lord during His Passion, Crucifixion and death. Other people are horrified by the brutality that is possible to be perpetrated upon one Man by others. At times, during our journeys in life, many of us find ourselves binding our suffering to the Cross. This day, the man feels called once again to this great meditation.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13).
Like most summer days in coastal Louisiana, the weather shifts from one extreme condition to the other. As the man leaves his home to run errands and make his way to the confessional in the Catholic church nearby, the temperature is rising toward a balmy 98 degrees. The bright green tee-shirt he is wearing clings to his body, absorbing the beads of perspiration rolling down his neck from the heat. In the distance, a thunderhead, with its dark purple grey clouds and flashes of lightning, threatens a dramatic downpour.
Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, the first stop on the man’s route, sits in peace; there is not a single vehicle to be seen in the parking lot, even though on Saturdays, confession begins at 3:00pm. As the man starts to make his way across the steaming parking lot, a sudden burst of thunder announces the coming shower and lets loose buckets of rain. An unusual rain shower, the drops are as large as the man’s thumb, yet far enough apart that a small child would be able to bob and weave between the crystal clear tears from heaven. For the man, there is no dodging the cooling effect of the water as it hits him in the face. A quick run and he makes it inside the church.
Sitting toward the front in church, while he waits for confession to begin, allows the man time to sit at the foot of the Cross and look upward. The high cathedral ceilings are lined with dark, long, leaf pine planks. Suspended from the ceiling by almost invisible wires, there he sees Christ hanging on the Cross, with His head drooping down substantially in agony. Over his right shoulder, the man notices that the green light has been turned on, inviting those who are seeking confession to form a line. However, at this point, he remains seated.
In his heart, the man knows that Christ wants him seated right there, at the foot of the Cross, while awaiting his turn for confession. Throughout his life, the man has not infrequently felt his closest union with Christ when sitting below the Cross, sharing in his own little way in His suffering. Lifting his eyes up to the depiction of his Savior, the Cross comes to life in intimate detail. The right hand of his Lord appears as if it is inches from his face. Although the Cross is set in a dark stone color, the outline of the drops of blood appear, deep red and glistening in his mind’s eye; pouring out from around the nail that has been brutally pounded through the bone and the flesh with a heavy iron mallet. One single drop of blood hangs from the edge of the nail, waiting; calling out to him.
The man can see the centurion’s large hand raised with the hammer swinging through the air, determined to inflict as much pain as possible on the Savior of the world – the Redeemer who, in turn, endures it out of infinite love for all humanity. Each time the iron nail hits the flat end of the iron and inches deeper into the cross of his King, the man sees his sins flying in the air together with the red droplets of blood. He prays within himself, Oh, dear Lord, I am sorry. The pounding, Lord, the pounding. Please make it stop.
And his God responds, “You can.”
Slowly, ever so slowly, the man’s eyes are drawn to a three inch tear just above the right hip bone of Christ. The skin appears to roll down, exposing the pink under-flesh. Again, he sees drops of pink water laden with blood flowing from His side. The man knows: Scourging, the cause of scrounging. The flesh and the skin have been peeled away from the Man on the Cross. How the Roman soldiers must have laughed as they ripped the perfected skin away from its muscle! Again, the man sees the soldier, with wide eyes darting about as if possesses by demons, wildly swinging the chain tipped with tiny nails and sharpened bones. The chain impacts the bronzed skin of its Victim and rips through inches of muscle and skin, spilling the Victim’s blood and forming puddles on the muddy stone.
The man can see another small droplet of blood as it hangs from the tip of the torn flesh of the Son of God, waiting for the man’s response. He prays to himself, Oh, dear Lord, I am sorry. The tearing, Lord, the tearing. Please make it stop.
And his God responds one more time, “You can.”
Looking up to the face of Christ, the man can see beads of blood forming into tiny pools of blood in the crevices of His holy Face, torn by the Crown, the thorns of which are penetrating the bone of His skull after having been beaten into place by His torturers. The faces of the latter appear as they spit upon and curse the Savior of humanity, and in the reflection of Christ’s blue green eyes, the man sees his own reflection – a reflection of his past sins. The man’s own heartbeat quickens in his chest and becomes a deep, penetrating beat that calls his to genuine repentance.
For the third time, the man prays, Oh, dear Lord, I am sorry. Help me to become the man You want me to be. And in response from his God, the man receives a long, penetrating silence while feeling the warm breeze of the Spirit move through him, purging and forgiving him. The man looks over his shoulder again and realizes that the green light of the confessional signals that the time has now arrived for confession.
Entering the confessional, he says, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned” and proceeds to make his confession.
Then, after having received counsel and absolution, he returns to the Cross. This time, in the first pew, directly beneath the Cross, the man looks up to the hanging body of Christ, straining and stretching as it releases all signs of life. And he recalls the words of Scripture:
When Jesus had taken the wine, He said, “It is finished.” And bowing His head, He handed over the spirit (Jn 19:30).
It is finished! What is finished? thinks the man. The sacrifice? His redemption?
The words of his Lord ring in his ears, “You can.” And now, “It is finished.”
Enraptured in this contemplation, the man looks into the eyes of Christ and with his Lord’s long, flowing, blood-drenched hair hanging loosely in His face, the man catches a glimpse of a light. What kind of light is this? he thinks.
It is an infinitesimal light, growing as it comes closer, moving in slow motion through the air and approaching the man. A single drop of blood falls down from a long, brown strand of the Savior’s hair and floats through the air as if suspended. The drop emanates a light as though it is the most brilliant diamond the man can ever imagine. Then, in a sudden spark, unseen to anyone but the man’s heart, this single drop of Christ’s blood lands with great gentleness upon the forehead of this man, flowing through every fiber of his being and creating a profound union known only to the man and his Redeemer. In the very depths of his heart, the man feels the last breath of Christ depart from His body, sending His Spirit flowing over the man, and he knows: It is finished.
The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mt 27:54).