Friday, September 17, 2010

Looking at Jesus

Everything in the liturgy today conspires to focus our attention on "Jesus Christ, and him crucified," even though at first glance it's not that obvious.
I mean, the first reading is Paul reminding the Corinthians of the centrality of the resurrection: without faith that Christ is raised from the dead, they "have believed in vain." Their "hopes are centered on this life only" and they are "the most pitiable of all people."
The Gospel is a tiny bridge passage in Luke. All it tells us is that as Jesus went around preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, he was accompanied by the Twelve and "many women" whom he had healed in some way. Three of the women are named.
Where the cross comes into play is that we find "the women who accompanied him from Galilee" back on the scene in Luke's Gospel at the crucifixion of Jesus. And again, it is "the women who came down with him from Galilee" who watched the burial, prepared the usual spices, and returned on Sunday to discover the empty tomb. The testimony Paul bore to the resurrection came from the lips of those very women Luke wrote about.
But wait, there's more! Today (just days after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross) the Franciscans celebrate the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis. Francis was the first person known to have shared the marks of the crucifixion in his own body, as a mystical kind of communion with the Lord. Adrienne von Speyer, a mystic and stigmatic herself, wrote interestingly about Francis' experience. She said that he did not look at those painful wounds in his own hands and feet and marvel at what was happening to him. Instead, he experienced them as simply a closer look at, a deeper form of contemplation of the sufferings Jesus endured "for us sinners."
Friday is traditionally set apart for our own contemplation and communion with Jesus in the mystery of his suffering and death. That's what's behind the old "fish on Friday" discipline. And even if the fish has become an option on the penitential menu, the penitential focus on Friday was not supposed to be mitigated, but deepened.
What do you suggest for renewing and refocusing our attention on the mystery of the Cross each week?

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