I was reading a reflection on the crucifixion by Father James Martin, a Jesuit author, who challenges the reader to look at the crucifixion from a different perspective. Much of our time praying before a crucifix is looking up…offering up our struggles, our illnesses, our problems, asking why and so on. What Father Martin challenges the reader to do is by using your imagination, imagine yourself as the one hanging on the cross and see what Jesus sees. Of course, all of the disciples have left. In John’s Gospel that we just heard it is simply Mary and the beloved disciple. After an intense trial, Jesus sees abandonment. Jesus sees friends that have betrayed and fearful. Jesus hears the words, “crucify, crucify”. Yet, here he hangs, here we hang, naked and exposed before the world for who we really are.
Yet, knowing he was fully human, was there a part of him that looked out and saw a failed “project”? All he wanted to do was to do good. All he wanted to do was love. All he wanted to do was show people a different way and looking out, head hung, naked on the cross, a failed plan. A man on trial left to death for something that didn’t even work, a love and do good project that failed.
Yet, the masterful writer of John’s Gospel, like last evening, turns the tables on all the character in the drama. In reality, it is all of them on trial; it is all of them hanging on the cross, exposed for who they really are and their own plans and fears and abuse of power. All right there and they can’t see it, or at least not until they too find themselves hanging on the cross and seeing it from a different perspective; seeing ourselves and all of our plans that fail. Yet, we try and we try and we try to make it work, our plans our projects, failed.
But maybe that’s what it’s all about. The irony of it all is that the way to God is through our failures. It’s about all of the plans and projects that are about us and what we want that all gets nailed to that cross as we hang there, because in order for us to fulfill the command of God’s will for our lives, the cross is a necessity, failure is a necessity, hanging naked, exposed is a necessity. When we surrender it all as Jesus does and allow ourselves to be purged, the will of God begins to take shape.
We do live with hope. We know that the cross is not the end. We know that failure is not the end. But all of it is the way to God and the way to life and the way to God’s will for our lives and the way to the love we deeply desire. On this second night of this celebration, we imagine ourselves hanging there, invited to die with Christ. What do we see? Who has abandoned us? What do we hear being yelled at us? Who’s there in humble desperation? Yes, at that moment of despair, fear, and abandonment, it may seem like the end and a failed plan, but it’s only ours. Through it, God’s Will will shine forth and true life will again breathe forth.