Sacred Triduum - Good Friday - 2012
Batoni - Crucifixion - 1762
Jesus Christ Emptied Himself
In his letter to the Philippians, St Paul wrote these words"
" ... though he was in the form of God,
[Jesus] did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
(Phil 2: 6-8)
Here we are dealing with mystery. It is the mystery of Jesus' kenosis. It is a Greek word that speak of Jesus, as Son of God, pouring out, giving up, surrendering both many of the powers he held as Son of God, especially in the Incarnation and then as Son of Man, when he surrendered even some of rights of being a human being. However, as Pope John Paul II said in a General Audience (2/17/88): this insight of St. Paul, "He emptied himself"must not be understood apart from his role as God. This "does not in any way mean the he ceased to be God. What Jesus did was simply this: "...as the true Son of God, he assumed a human nature deprived of glory, subject to suffering and death, in which he could live in obedience to the Father, even to the ultimate sacrifice."
Besides the extraordinary sacrifice of becoming a human being, he also surrender some of "the privileges he could have enjoyed as a man. He assumed "the form of a slave." Being a king or potentate was not his choosing. Rather, for us, he chose to be one who would serve. His entire life was marked by poverty from the birth is the spartan emptiness of an animal's stall to the kind of death he endured. As you look at the Batoni painting, considering how he was brought to this point in his earthly life, we must not overlook that Jesus emptied himself of any of the challenges of the human ego. He did not demonstrate any anger. His depicted minimal clothing, contrary to the accounts that he was hanged naked on the cross in front of a crowd of men and women, all human dignity being lost. He emptied himself of everything. Why?
It is easy to answer, "For us." However, on this anniversary of his death, to partake of the extraordinary graces that pour out to us from his bed of death we must try our best to imagine how great was his love "for us." Isn't it our own problems, our own desires, our own sins that make it so difficult for us to truly understand the depth of his generosity. We have to be honest with ourselves: it is not easy for us to remove the walls that hinder our fullest understanding of his sacrifice "for us."
Let this "Good Friday" be the occasion when we make the effort to overcome those attitudes, those assumptions that block our total union with the God-man. Today we are given once again the opportunity to attain the new life that Jesus promised us at the Last Supper and made real in the Resurrection. This is the genuine gift behind the pain-filled journey from the Agony in the Garden to the supreme sacrifice on Mount Calvary.
With Saint Paul, as we look upon the crucified Jesus, we might say to our selves, "I live, no not I, but Christ lives in me... the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me." (Gal 2:20)