The Holy Shroud of Christ, reserved in Turin, Italy, reveals the horrific reality of what Christ suffered this day for us. The blood stains, bruises and stigmata of crucifixion wounds are embedded in the burial shroud as supporting testimony to the Apostles of what Our Lord endured to restore us to eternal friendship with God. The shroud reveals a 6’man with scourge marks consistent with the Roman flagrum, which was a leather whip with 2/3 lead dumbbell shaped endings, which often included small barbs. There were over 120 of these wounds on his backside from his shoulders to his heels and also on the front from his chest to his feet. We see blood stains and piercing wounds all over his head and blood matted in his hair. Swelling and contusions are evident on his cheek and nose. Wounds on both shoulders suggests the carrying of a very heavy object. The shroud further reveals massive wounds at the base of his hands near the wrists where six inch spikes were driven to support his body weight and also through the arches of his feet. Blood streams are evident on the arms consistent with the position of crucifixion. We know the most sensitive nerves of the body run through these points of the hands and feet, and would have caused excruciating, shock inducing pain as the crucified one struggled to breathe by alternating between pushing on his feet to breathe and pulling himself up by his arms … each causing new firey shocks of pain… for hours. He died from cardiopulmonary failure and asphyxiation. The shroud reveals a three-inch wound in his side sustained after death in a shape consistent with the Roman lance used at that time and evidence of large flow of blood serum that scientists determine included separate components of blood cells and clear serum drained from the lesion.
This concretely evidences the physical suffering Christ, the Son of God endured for our salvation and this nothing compared to the spiritual anguish He endured by taking upon Himself the sins of the world, including all of those who would willingly reject His love in favor of self and passing pleasures and distractions.
What is our response? I’d like to focus on just one simple meditation for this solemn day – and it is the response of GRATITUDE. Recognizing our salvation as an undeserved gift of God is the necessary starting point to our deeper conversion and response to God’s self-emptying love.
The saving work of Christ on Good Friday is the greatest gift God offers to us – the question is: do we recognize and receive this gift of God in a spirit of gratitude? The gift is His very self … and a participation in His life. Just because it is offered does not mean we have received it – at least not as fully as God desires us to receive it. He does not force his love and salvation on us. God desires an ongoing, depending process of conversion, which is Jesus’ opening line in the Gospel – “Repent!”
Good Friday is a day of deep reflection in gratitude for God’s love for each of us personally. Gratitude is our first response to the love we see proven to us on the cross. If we do not feel that gratitude keenly, then we are not recognizing our need (sin) and dependency on God sufficiently.
In a very simple and practical way, we can foster this spirit of gratitude by taking time every day to reflect on the occasions and persons in our (daily) lives where God has blessed and given gifts to us. Where and in what has God bestowed his gifts and blessings upon you? Perhaps someone spoke an encouraging word to you; Perhaps God's majesty was evident in a beautiful sunrise or starry night; Perhaps you experienced his gift in family time together; Perhaps you have the blessing of employment or health; Perhaps someone helped you today or you had the opportunity to help someone in need... etc.
You will begin to recognize that God is constantly showering blessings and graces upon you. This will lift your hearts and spirits and enkindle a response … of love from us back to God, which leads to our self-emptying and desire to return love for love. . . and this is the response God desires from us today:
Gratitude for His ultimate gift of love on the cross; gratitude for the many gifts He gives us in our ordinary, daily lives; and our returning that love to God in:
1) Obedience, which was the sacrifice of Christ on the cross - ““Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (Jn 14:23) – this is the gift God desires to give us in the cross – His very indwelling presence!
2) Service – of God and those around us. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
*Let us show gratitude to God for His gift of love, which is stronger than death… revealed in the cross, which leads to resurrection & eternal life.