Daily Reflection
March 21st, 2008

Robert P. Heaney

Creighton University Professor Chair
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My people, what have I done to you? Or in what I have grieved you? Answer me.

During the veneration of the cross in the Good Friday liturgy, the instructions call for the singing of the Reproaches (or “some other, suitable hymn”, though it would be hard to imagine anything quite as suitable). In them a disappointed God asks us where He went wrong.

Is it because I brought you out of the land of Egypt that you have prepared a cross for your Savior?

The Reproaches used to be mandated; now we rarely hear them – rarely have to confront them. Some might think them anti-Semitic because they are explicitly addressed to the Jews of Jesus’ time. But that would be to take them much too literally. They are addressed to all of God’s people, everywhere, every time.

I gave you a royal scepter, and you have placed on my head a crown of thorns. My people, what have I done to you . . . Answer me.

It is important to face the fact that we have failed to live up to our Baptismal promises. Good Friday is not just a remembrance of a long ago event. The Church – we, collectively – are the sacrament of Christ for our world. We, the Church, all of us, have failed. It is we who must die to self today, so that we can rise again to the new life of self-giving in the risen Jesus.

What more ought I have done for you, that I have not done? I planted you, my most beautiful vineyard, and you have become exceedingly bitter to me, for in my thirst you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.

To use Old Testament language, we have walked in our own ways, worshiping the works of our hands. I am reminded of Frank Sinatra’s signature song “I did it my way”. Stretch your imagination – stretch it as far as you can. Can you imagine Jesus saying that? At Gethsemane? On Calvary? Impossible! The cross is a human offering of perfect obedience to God’s will. This is part of the meaning of today’s second reading “. . . Son though He was, He learned obedience through what he suffered. Having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to those who obey Him.” Today we are enfolded into Jesus’ own self-giving – enabled to offer our imperfect sacrifice so as to be transformed by His perfect offering.

I have exalted you with great power; and you have hung me from a cross. My people, what have I done to you?

Answer me!
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