Holy Saturday. An adapted extract from a book by late archbishop Fulton Sheen, The The Seven Last Words:
"[AFTER CRUCIFYING JESUS, the] executioners expected Him to cry, for every one pinned on the gibbet of the Cross had done it before Him. Seneca tells us that those who were crucified cursed the day of their birth, the executioners, their mothers, and even spat on those who looked upon them. Cicero tells us that at times it was necessary to cut out the tongues of those who were crucified, to stop their terrible blasphemies.
"The Scribes and Pharisees expected a cry too, and they were quite sure that He who had preached "Love your enemies", and "Do good to them that hate you", would now forget that Gospel with the piercing of feet and hands....
"Everyone expected a cry, but no one with the exception of the three at the foot of the Cross, expected the cry they did hear. Like some fragrant trees which bathe in perfume the very axe which gnashes them, the great Heart on the Tree of Love poured out from its depths something less a cry than a prayer, the soft, sweet, low prayer of pardon and forgiveness: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
WATCHED MEL GIBSON's Passion of the Christ again yesterday before setting off for the 2.30pm service at my parish with a friend. This time, i was more struck by the intense grief of Jesus' mother Mary and especially, the gradual enlightenment of the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross.
As the beloved disciple climbed up the hill of Golgotha with his master, watched Him being nailed to the cross and raised up "on a tree between heaven and earth", utter His prayerful words of forgiveness, he remembered how He had spoken of "Love your enemies", "Do good to them that hate you", "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends", "Take and eat, this is my body... this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins", and so on.
Perhaps such is the spiritual journey of Mel Gibson, and every disciple who has come to love the crucifix so ardently.
How great is the compassion of the Lord! As Fr Sheen had pointed out in his book, "It seems to be a fact of psychology that when death approaches, the human heart speaks its words of love to those whom it holds closest and dearest. There is no reason to suspect that it is otherwise in the case of the Heart of hearts. If He spoke in a graduated order to those whom He loved most, then we may expect to find in His first three words the order of His love and affection. His first words went out to enemies: "Father, forgive them", His second to sinners, "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise", and His third to saints, "Woman, behold thy son". Enemies, sinners, and saints -- such is the order of divine love and thoughtfulness."
Stranger and stranger. This year, there was no thunder or lightning. Only a darkened sky and a light drizzle after the 2.30pm service.
(See Why Is Good Friday Good... II.)