On the day of our baptism, after we had water poured on us, the deacon or priest would claim us for Jesus by tracing the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Our parents and godparents would do the same, marking us for Christ by the sign of the cross. From then on, every time we entered a church, we would call to mind our baptism by blessing ourselves with holy water in the sign of the cross. Every time we pray, we begin by marking ourselves in the sign of the cross in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And we began this great season of Lent by repeating the sign of the cross on our foreheads in ashes remembering that if not for Jesus’ death and our baptism we would be nothing but dust. Our lives as followers of Christ are marked by the sign of the cross.
On this Good Friday, we gather at the foot of that cross. It is a sad day. In the shadow of the cross, we reflect on how far we have allowed sin to run amok in our world. The cross is a mirror that shows us how much sin has disfigured us. We look up and see how we have even allowed it to disfigure our Savior, God made man. It calls us to reflect on how many times we have rejected Jesus, abandoned Him, spit upon Him and sent Him away to be crucified.
However, despite the violence running through the story of Jesus’ death, there is hope and even joy. This cross upon which He shed every drop of His blood is now the means of our salvation. If it was because of our sins that Jesus would die, then it would be through His death that our sins would be forgiven. Jesus has taken upon Himself the punishment we deserved, and so the gates of paradise are once again opened for us. Now from heaven comes tumbling down upon us all the blessings of God, grace upon grace. From the cross flow the forgiveness of sins, the hope of eternal life, consolation in our suffering, strength to face temptation and healing for our bodies and souls. From the cross flow the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, the Eucharist, Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick. The cross is the bridge between heaven and earth.
Because of the cross, we no longer need to fear. There is no condemnation for us now. Jesus has taken it upon Himself. Sin has lost its power. And there is no more death. It is true that our bodies must still suffer and die. But we know that death is not an end but a beginning. Because of the cross, death is now the portal to a new and everlasting life with Jesus. Even the anxieties and stresses of daily living have no more power over us. We are relieved of these through our confidence in the love of God. If God loved us so much that He was willing to give His only Son to free us, what else would He be willing to do for us, His beloved sons and daughters?
Today is a day for us to leave sin and fear at the foot of the cross and to begin living with confidence and joy. Any shame, guilt or regret we may be still carrying with us as a result of sinful choices we have made in the past can be dumped right here. We no longer need to be carrying that burden. Jesus has already carried it for us. It is now time for us to embrace His mercy, to open wide our arms and gather up all the graces of heaven which are being showered down upon us.
And it is time for us to live with joy because, by His cross, Jesus has finally set us free.