Love is the message Jesus offers in our gospel reading today. Love God and love your neighbor, he says to the scribe asking about the greatest commandment . (Mark 12, 28-34) We expect to hear about love on a lenten Friday, since every Friday is associated with the Friday called Good. Lenten Fridays especially prepare us for that great day of love.
The gospels dwell on what took place that day in great detail. Historians, scholars, artists approach the mystery of Jesus’ passion and death in different ways. What political or religious factors were behind it? Who were the people involved? What was crucifixion like? The day is a fascinating conclusion to a fascinating life.
But, above all, it’s a day about love. Hosea, the prophet we hear from in our first reading today was a man in love with a woman who betrayed him for another, but he never forgot her. She was the love of his life, and he saw everything else in the light of that experience. In an instance, he would take her back.
Why did Jesus suffer such a death, we ask? As God’s Son, no one could take his life from him. The only answer we can give is that Jesus gave himself up to death and accepted death on the Cross out of love for his Father and out of love for us. Love caused him to say in the Garden, “Your will be done.” Love called words of forgiveness from the cross: ”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The cross was not something Jesus endured; he embraced it with his whole heart, his whole mind and all his strength. Before his cross, we stand before Love.
We should not avoid praying before the cross. All the saints recommend this prayer:
“When you experience dryness in your prayer, gently stir your spirit with loving acts then rest in God. Softly say to him, ‘How bruised your face, how swollen, how disfigured with spit. I see your bones laid bare. What suffering, what blows, what grief. Love is one great wound. Sweet are your wounds, sweet is your suffering. I want to keep you always close to my heart.” (Paul of the Cross:Letter 23)
Lord Jesus Christ,
the scribe in today’s gospel repeated the command to love
and you praised him for it.
May I keep before me the great commandment
to love God and my neighbor
and live it as you did.
Give me that grace. Amen.