6/04/07 The Way of the Cross Reflections

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through Phoenix Park, Dublin

Elements for reflections of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Good Friday, 6th April 2007
Words of Welcome

We come to commemorate the Passion and Death of Jesus.   We come to walk the path that Jesus walked.  It is the path of rejection.  Jesus who was the just man was rejected by his very own.   The Jesus who on Palm Sunday entered Jerusalem acclaimed as King is now condemned to a criminal’s death. 

But Jesus loved us so much that he did not cling to the outwards symbols of power and possession.  He humbled himself; he emptied himself, out of love for us.  He gave himself up that we might have life; that we might be freed from the closedness of sinfulness and be freed to life in abundance.  

We join with Jesus on his path, knowing that this path is the only path to true life.

First Station

“The Way of the Cross in the heart of a city” is the description you will find in your booklet.  We gather once again this year to walk with the Cross of Jesus along the paths of this park, not quite in the heart of the city, but in an oasis of peace amid the bustle of daily life.

The reading we have heard stresses that we are not here today on an historical walk, observing traces of the distant path, thinking back on some distant event.  We are here to enter into a mystery which affects our lives and the lives of all around us.
Jesus prepares to celebrate the Passover with his disciples.  Just as on Palm Sunday the narrative begins with Jesus borrowing something. On Palm Sunday it was a donkey to carry him into Jerusalem.  This evening it is the room where Jesus will celebrate the Passover.

Jesus owns nothing.  He is poor, totally detached from wealth and possessions.  Being his follower means renouncing attachment to wealth.  We know the story of the rich young man who was upright and kept the commandments, but could not take the ultimate step which Jesus asked of him to sell what he had.  It is difficult to follow Jesus in his poverty. It is particularly difficult to follow Jesus in his poverty in our world when all the symbols of success that we encounter are linked with possession, and power and celebrity.

Why should we be poor?  Being poor is above all a way of life, an attitude of heart.  It is above all a way of being free to love, overcoming the self-centredness of hanging to false security.  Jesus shows us that the way to enter life is to lose it, to lose it through giving ourselves out of love.   Only when we overcome selfishness through self-giving love will we be free.

Second Station

For the second time along our journey with the cross of Jesus Judas appears: the sad and unfortunate figure who was to betray Jesus.  Poor Judas!  But other disciples were weak also.  At the first sign of rejection they too fled.  Peter denied Jesus.  

Judas was proud. The unfortunate Judas shows us where pride can lead us.  He followed Jesus in the hope of achieving power and success for himself.  For him, personal power and success alone were real; love did not count. With his pride came greed: money for himself became more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and his love.
Sin from the beginning of creation is seen as an expression of pride.  When we are proud, we feel enhanced.   But instead of enhancing us, pride really isolates us, it prevents us from loving.  Pride makes us believe that we have no need of any purification or renewal and thus we close ourselves to love, we close ourselves to God's saving goodness.
In today’s world where we prize success and power, possession and celebrity, Holy Week should lead us away from being closed in on ourselves.  The self-satisfied feel no need for redemption.  The self-obsessed will never understand freedom.  The self-centred will never understand the beauty of generosity.

The great sin is rejection of love, not just not loving but not allowing ourselves to be loved and not allowing the love of God to change us.   It is humility, not pride, that we need in order to allow ourselves to be embraced by the God who loves us, and who showed that love until the end.

Third Station

Jesus is betrayed.  They found lying witnesses to have him condemned.  Who respects a paid lying witness?  Peter also lies, perhaps more through simple human weakness, rather than for personal gain.  But both lie.  The truth costs.  It costs to stand up for the truth.  When untruth enters into a society as a way of life, the cost is immeasurable.

If we want to follow Christ then we must be witnesses to personal integrity in a world where integrity too often gets cut short. How many lives have been ruined by drugs which are peddled by the people who have no problem with lying?  They do not care about the truth, even the truth about human life.  Are truth and integrity at the root of our business practices, our political life, our media?    It costs to stand up for the truth. Society plays with untruth at its peril.

Jesus knows what is facing him and he prays.   It is the prayer of anguish, and yet it is also the prayer of serenity, the serenity that comes when we abandon ourselves fully to God’s will.  He realises the suffering he is to endure, yet he accepts this in order to witness to the faithfulness and the compassion of God.
The pressure on Christians today is to conform, to lie low, not to rock the boat, the keep one’s innermost religious sentiments to oneself, not to stand out.  But the Christian is called to be the sign not of conformism but of contradiction.  We need a Church which has no fear of challenging superficiality and hypocrisy, a Church which can confront untruth in its own life, a Church which witnesses to the truth of Jesus Christ who died so that we can live our lives in all their authenticity. 

Fourth Station

They preferred Barabbas.  Barabbas even through he was a notorious brigand, somehow made the crowd feel less uncomfortable than the one whom Pilate’s wife calls “that upright man”.  Over twenty centuries, there have been those who have preferred Barabbas; it is easy to go with the crowd

Following Jesus is not entering into a comfort zone.  Following Jesus is not a flight from responsibility, where someone else takes responsibility for what I do. In encountering “that upright man” Jesus, we encounter ourselves and what it means for each of us to be an upright person.

Pilate tries to wash his hands of the entire matter.  He convinces himself that he is “innocent of this man’s blood.  It is your concern”. The uprightness of our lives is our concern. Uprightness in society is our concern.  Jesus stands before Pilate, before his court, before his false accusers, before the crowd the solitary and lone symbol of integrity. In the sordid court of lies, the bowed head of the accused is the only head that really can be held high. 

Still today in the face of the empty babble of much of our culture, Jesus stands there silent and alone calling us to integrity within ourselves and in our conduct.   We need a Church which has the ability to propose the message and the truth of Jesus uncontaminated by superficiality and trendiness, a Church which can stand, alone if necessary, against popular opinion in preaching the challenging integrity of the truth of Jesus.  Lord, heal your Church from the fruits of human weakness, human failure, compromise and sinfulness that have weakened the power of your word in our world today.

Fifth Station

At the Cross we encounter the faithful few, those who have been with Jesus during his mission and who are with him as his mission reaches its climax.   They remain faithful even when that climax is not something which they could have imagined.  Jesus who went about doing good finds himself enduring a criminal’s death amid the mockery and the taunts of the crowd.

Others pass by and barely notice, just as with us today.  As we reflect on this dramatic moment in human history and the history of salvation, people pass by looking at us with benign interest or curiosity, this being perhaps the only reminder they will encounter today of the event we remember.

The faithful few are there at the Cross.   Mary his mother, model of discipleship and fidelity, whose fidelity became the human instrument which permitted the work of redemption to be accomplished through her son.  There are the other women.  We encounter Joseph of Arimathaea who had been a hidden convert and Simon of Cyrene, who we know became a disciple and whose sons were known in the early Church. The centurion makes his profession of faith.  But where were the Apostles other than John? 

Being an office holder or exercising a ministry in the Church is sadly not always an indication of real fidelity to Jesus.   The minister is not just the teacher, but in the first place a disciple, a humble listener to the Word and to the witness of faith of those entrusted to his care.  Let us pray for those called to leadership in the Church: that they repent their failure and infidelity and day by day deepen their sense of being disciples.


Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world.  It was not so at the time of his earthly mission and his death.  It is not so today. 

We reflect on the Cross at the end of the evening of Good Friday.  The Cross stands bare and alone on the hill.  Jesus body, which was formed in the womb of his Mother Mary, is returned to her loving embrace.  Just as at his conception Mary became the Mother of the Saviour, now at his death she is the bearer in anticipation of the fullness of her son’s message.  God’s love revealed in Jesus is stronger than death.

“Father forgive them”, Jesus proclaims on the cross.  Father forgive us; forgive us our weaknesses and our sinfulness; forgive us our insensitivity, our ignorance and for the evil that is in each of us us.

But no sin is greater than the forgiveness of Jesus who loved us.  The Cross remains on the hill, a sign of that new perspective of salvation that opens out for us, if we too follow Jesus on his path of the Cross through death, now conquered by Jesus, who frees us to new life.


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