Jesus Dies on the Cross | Fifth Sorrowful Mystery
"`If you're the Son of God, come down from that Cross. Come down and we'll believe.' Sure they will believe; they'll believe anything, just no Cross. No mortification, no self-denial." The shrill, piercing cry of the aging Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen ricocheted off the walls of the Church of St. Agnes, in New York City, on Good Friday, April 8, 1977. He continued, "Many say `I'll believe anything! I'll believe He's divine! I will believe in His Church; I will believe in His pontiff, only no Cross! no sacrifice!'"
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said "George Bernard Shaw said of the Cross; `It's that that bars the way.' Sure it bars the way. It bars the way to hell!" Could Archbishop Sheen see what was coming upon him, and us, full steam? Could he see the suffering, our Lord Jesus would have to undergo at the hands of those who claimed to love Him? In his last years, when he gave his most powerful retreats to priests, did the Lord give him an insight into the real Agony Jesus suffered in the Garden, the real Agony He suffered on the Cross: the Agony of the great Apostasy, which would take hold so strongly in our Church towards the end of the Twentieth Century? Is that why he cried out so painfully for his Lord, Who is tortured so terribly, by those who love Him?
The walk to Calvary would have been devastating for anyone, but for Jesus, Who had received mortal wounds twice that day, from the crown of thorns, and again from the scourging He received from the Roman guards, it had to be pure agony! By all that's right, He should have been mercifully dead before arriving at the top of this hill.
Our Savior was stripped of His tunic. He was thrown to the ground. Nails - blunt, huge nails more like flat-head spikes were pounded into His Hands and Feet. The pain was unbearable, but Jesus said yes with His silence. [We were present at a Passion Play and the actor who played our Lord cried out in agony, as the soldiers pounded each nail into His Precious Body.] Did You cry out, Jesus as they pierced Your Hands with nails - Hands that had healed, Hands that had reached out to love us, Hands that had welcomed sinners, Hands that had multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish into enough food to feed close to 15,000 people on the Mount of Beatitudes? Now they were nailing those Hands to a Cross! No more would You heal us, love us, feed us. Wrong! Even as You were bleeding from the excruciating Wounds inflicted on Your Precious Hands, You were setting into motion the ongoing use of Your Hands through the anointed hands of Your Priests and Your faithful followers. Oh Lord, "I adore the Wounds on Your Sacred Head with sorrow deep and true. May every thought I have today be an act of love for You."
"I adore the Wounds on Your Sacred Hands with sorrow deep and true. May every work of my hands today be an act of love for You.
"I adore the Wounds on Your Sacred Feet with sorrow deep and true. May every step I take today be an act of love for You.
"I adore the Wounds on Your Sacred Heart with sorrow deep and true. May every beat of my heart today be an act of love for You." (Bob and Penny's beloved friend and former Pastor, Msgr. Thomas O'Connell, St. Jude's, Westlake Village, California, recites this prayer at every Mass during the Communion meditation.)
Jesus did not fit the cross He was given; it belonged to another. His Body had to be stretched to fit the cross; one of His Shoulders was pulled out of its socket and was dislocated. (This is the result of testing that was done by NASA (National Aeronautical and Space Administration) on the Holy Shroud. P.S this has not been disproved by Carbon-dating. Instead Carbon-dating as exact scientific testing has been disproved.) Did You cry out as they inflicted yet another Wound, my dearest Jesus? Was every muscle, every nerve, every fiber of Your Noble Body crying out in silent agonizing pain? Could it have been any worse? Our Lord told St. Brigid of Sweden that He received 5480 blows during His Passion. It's impossible to comprehend anyone receiving over five thousand blows to their body, and not dying.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux asked the Lord which was His greatest suffering. Our Lord answered Him, "I had on My shoulder, while I bore My cross on the way of sorrow, a most grievous wound which was more painful to Me than the others, and which is not recorded by men because they knew not of it. Honor this wound with thy devotion and I will grant thee whatsoever thou dost ask through its virtue and merits. And in regard of all those who shall venerate this wound, I will remit to them all." Was that the shoulder they later dislocated, Lord, which caused you so much pain? Do we continue to inflict pain on the most wounded parts of Your Body, the Church, as we refuse to take our place on the way to the Cross, as our Church is maligned and the Truth is distorted?
Jesus was lifted on the Cross, and left there to die. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the serpent, so must the Son of Man be lifted up." As the serpent did not have poison in it, although it looked poisonous, so Jesus, who looked guilty to those who chose to see guilt in Him, was without sin. And as all who looked at the serpent of brass were healed, so all who look at Our Lord on the Cross will be healed of the poison of sin. Every blow Jesus suffered was in payment for all the sins that had ever been, or ever would be. When you are weary and feel you cannot go another step, cannot endure another pain, or disappointment, when you feel all is hopeless, look upon Hope on the Cross, on He Who died that you and your loved ones would be one day with Him in Paradise.
When compared with the rest of Jesus' Life, the Gospel writers didn't go deeply into the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus. To our knowledge, two of the Gospel writers were not there, when our Lord died on the Cross. St. Mark, Scripture tells us, is believed to have witnessed the Crucifixion: "And a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and they laid hold of him." (Mark 14:51) And we know that St. John was there with Jesus' Mother. Did the others not write more, because they had not witnessed the Crucifixion of our Lord first-hand? Or was the Cross the problem? Was the Crucifixion a Scandal or a Triumph? It was almost as if it were a part of the life and ministry of their Lord that they didn't want to remember. They did speak about His being mocked, tantalized, degraded as no other before Him. They did recall Jesus' suffering and Humanity as He cried out, "My God, My God, why have you deserted me?" But it was only John, who had been at the foot of the Cross and suffered with Jesus' Mother, who saw the Cross as a Triumph and he wrote about it in this way.
Only St. Luke mentions that Jesus asked the Father to forgive His murderers. "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) Was this because this was important to Mother Mary? Was she telling all her children that Jesus forgave them and died that they might be forgiven their sins?
It is St. Luke who mentions the discourse between Jesus and the two thieves, and Jesus' promise to the Good Thief, "This day you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) Mary was recalling Jesus' Words of consolation to the whole world, for the whole world. Was it not important, when she missed her Son so very much, that Mother Mary remember the reason her Son died, that we would one day be with Him in Paradise, even those who ask forgiveness at the last moment? Was she not giving comfort to families of loved ones who have died and may be in need of mercy?
When you are questioning Mother Mary's role in the Redemption of the world, stop and ask yourself a question. How did St. Luke know so much about the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ? There is no mention of St. Luke at the foot of the Cross. He had to have received his knowledge of Jesus' suffering on the Cross from Jesus' Mother. How much pain did our Blessed Mother endure for our sake, as she remembered her Son's pain, the pain of abandonment, of aloneness, of torture, and rejection? And for all, even those of us who still attack her Son.
"Father, into Your Hands, I commend My Spirit." (Luke 23:46) What had been your thoughts, Mother Mary at these words of your most beloved and precious Son? Were you relieved the suffering was over? Were you too deep in grief to rejoice that your Son would be reunited with His Heavenly Father? At first, there must have been solace that no one could hurt Him any longer, but as you had to dig up every painful step in His Walk to our salvation, and share them with St. Luke, were your wounds reopened? Did you ache to hold your Son in your arms, again, as you retraced His last Words?
And then, there are the Angels with Him at the Cross. They had been with Jesus from the Incarnation. They had shared that great moment when Heaven met earth and we were united with God. They had announced His Birth! Now, those He came for, those He had come to save, killed Him! We can envision the Angels crying hard tears and feeling justified anger as they watched the scandal of the Crucifixion unfold.
Mother Angelica tells us the only justified anger is God's anger. There have been many instances of God's Anger in the history of the world. We believe when Hitler massacred six million innocent Jews, Catholics and citizens, he incurred God's Anger, and when Stalin murdered ten million human beings, he aroused God's Anger, and as mothers world-wide are slaughtering their own flesh and blood, their helpless unborn babies, over thirty million in the United States alone, those who do (abortion) and those who do nothing invoke God's Anger.
But this, the murder of His only Son, Our God, we truly believe this was a time of God's Anger, and He allowed the Angels to manifest it for Him.
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Did they cry out to Jesus, "No, Lord, God your Father has not forsaken you! We have not forsaken You. It is those down there with You, those you came to save, they have forsaken You, Lord, not us. We love You. Give us one word, one sign and we'll make our slaughter of the 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who insulted You, (2Kings 19:35) seem like child's play. Give us the nod, Lord, and we'll wipe out every one of them."
As Jesus cried His last cry and painfully breathed His last breath, could it have been the screams of the Angels, horrified by the blasphemous act of our loving Savior's murder, that caused the curtain to be torn in the Temple from top to bottom, the earth to shake violently, the rocks to split, the sun to blacken, and the graves to open? Could that massive convulsion of the earth have been caused by the justified anger of God, as conveyed to us by His Angels?
But the Scandal of the Cross became the Triumph of the Cross!
John's Gospel is unique. He dwells on different details than the other Gospel writers. He was an eye-witness. Our belief has always been that John regarded the end of Jesus' physical existence on this earth as the Triumph of the Cross, rather than the Scandal of the Cross. While the others in retrospect, may have understood and accepted the necessity of Our dear Lord Jesus having to suffer as much as He had, and in the manner He had, only John actually put it down on paper. He methodically tracked the incidents in the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus and how they fulfilled Scripture, from Pilate's labeling Jesus "King of the Jews", and not giving in, insisting: "What I have written, I have written." to the seamless tunic Jesus was wrapped in, woven in one piece from top to bottom, a sign of royalty or priesthood. It is also believed John referred to Unity in the tunic as the unity of the Church. (When we wrote our book "Scandal of the Cross and Its Triumph", little did we expect to write this book on the Rosary. In that book, the Lord told us to write how He grieves until we are one, and now His Word is the same - Unity!)
St. Luke does not mention Mother Mary at the foot of the Cross because Mother Mary would not have wanted to bring attention to herself at the cost of keeping our eyes on Jesus. But John mentions Our Lady was at the foot of the Cross because it was John who was there with her, and it was important to him that the Faithful know the part our Mother had in our salvation.
"When Jesus saw His Mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His Mother, `Woman, behold your son.' Then He said to the disciple, `Behold your mother.' From that hour, the disciple took her into his home." (Jn 19:26-27)
The words highlighted are Woman and hour. The first time we hear Jesus calling His Mother "Woman" is at the Wedding Feast of Cana when "Jesus said to her, `Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not come yet.'" (Jn 2:4-5) and the last time is at Jesus' Final Hour. These words, Woman and hour appear when Jesus speaks to His Mother at the very beginning of His Ministry, and at the very end.
Mother Mary, as you went over every word your Son ever uttered, did you think about the time at Cana when you encouraged Jesus to change the water into wine? If you had not reached out to Him, that night, would He have died so horribly on the Cross? As you remembered Jesus' words at Cana did Jesus' last words on the Cross take on added pain?
At Cana Jesus tells us, as He says yes to His Mother and performs His first Miracle, that He will grant any petition, as long as it is the Father's Will, through His Mother's request. When Jesus gave Mother Mary to John, and John to Mother Mary, Jesus declared Mary the Mother of all Christians, our personal Heavenly Mother, and Mother of the Church.
Much is given to the fact that Jesus first gave John to His Mother, and then His Mother to the disciple. John represents us, the Church. Jesus gave the Church to His Mother first. He gave the Church over to her for her guidance and protection. She would care for us. Whenever we, the Church are in trouble and it seems the jaws of hell will finally do us in, Mother Mary comes in an apparition to affirm her Popes and to strengthen her Church.
When Jesus gave His Mother to John, He also gave Mother Mary to us as Mother of our Church, and our very own Mother. When we are disturbed by what we hear going on in the Church, do we turn to our Mother for help? The Church is her child. What mother, when her child is in danger, will not come forth to save him or her? Is this what Mother Mary has been saying, since Fatima? Is this part of the Third Secret of Fatima? Is Mother Mary grieving over the apostasy, division and dissension within the Church?
Jesus gave us His Mother as our personal Heavenly Mother, a Mother who would never forget us, who would be interceding for us, until the end of time. Are we listening with our heads and our hearts? Are we on our knees, turning to the Mother of God? When you think of the intense pain, Jesus had to go through to say these words, how can we doubt how important this was and is to Him? Jesus was suffocating! He had to summon every last vestige of strength to lift His pain-wracked Body, in order to say these words. It was that important. Jesus was, and is, putting us under the mantle and protection of His Mother.
When Jesus gave His Mother to John (as he stood in for us), was He not entrusting her to us? Was He not truly uniting us with Him, making us into family? Why do we not listen to the beautiful Mother He bequeathed to us? Turn to her! We fear this may be our last chance!
"....aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, `I thirst.' So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to His mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, `It is finished.' And bowing His head, He handed over His Spirit." (Jn 19:26-27)
When our Lord Jesus said "I thirst." was it for all those who would never know Him and not knowing Him would not follow Him to His Father in Paradise? Was he thirsting for those souls? Was he thirsting over the millions of souls that would be lost because of the many false prophets that would rise up, over and over again in His Church, and lead so many of His innocent lambs astray?
John did not record Jesus' Human cries: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Although this was plainly fulfillment of Psalm 22, we wonder if Jesus, in His pain was not even then thinking of us. Was He setting an example of the times we would cry out "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Was He, as our Brother, reaching out to us, telling us: "It's all right. The Father and I forgive you. Wait until your Easter Sunday, your Resurrection. You'll see, We have not abandoned you. We have heard, and We have cried with you, just as the Father cried with Me in My pain and anguish. You are not alone. We are with you till the end of time!"
We would like to try to reach into the hearts of the two Gospel writers who remembered and passed down our Lord's Words of anguish and abandonment. We believe that when Mark recorded Jesus' words to His Father, he was sharing also the pain St. Peter suffered the rest of his life because he had rejected his Jesus, the pain that made his martyrdom seem almost a relief. Mark is believed to have been St. Peter's secretary and we are sure St. Peter, our first Pope, shared many of his deepest feelings with him.
St. Matthew, our Gospel writer, was also one of the Apostles who had run away. We believe that he emphasized this part of the Passion because most likely he, too, mourned deeply not only our Lord's death, but the pain He suffered, as He struggled with His last words. Although it was painful recalling our Lord's Passion and death, and their part in it, these Gospel writers felt impelled to pass on His last moments and words.
But John was focusing on triumph, glory. This was the message of Jesus - the Good News! He did not want to blur the issue with anything that didn't lead in that direction.
With Jesus' last words "It is finished", the prophecies were completed; the price of salvation was paid; Redemption was accomplished. We became an Alleluia people, an Easter people; we were saved! We were saved by the Cross. And when Jesus said, "It is finished", He was saying the price has been paid; your redemption has been bought by the sacrifice of the Spotless Lamb; go and sin no more.
John continues unfolding the drama. It is not over for St. John. It is only beginning: "But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out." (Jn 19:33-34) The soldier was the centurion, Longinus, who then said, "Surely, this was the Son of God."
[An aside, Longinus, who was partially blind, touched his eyes with the blood and water which flowed from the side of Jesus, and was immediately healed. He left the army, became a Christian, and evangelized in the area of Cappodocia until he was martyred for the Faith. He also came from the town that was renamed in honor of him, Lanciano (the Lance) where the oldest recorded Miracle of the Eucharist occurred. (Account in the book by Bob and Penny Lord's book: "This is My Body, This is My Blood, Miracles of the Eucharist.")]
This is an extremely important moment in the formation of the Church. We believe that the Church flowed forth from the Side of Christ in the form of His precious Blood and Water. The Blood represents the sacrifice of the Lamb for the world's salvation; and as the Church was formed at this moment, the salvation will come from the Church He formed - the Roman Catholic Church.
The Water is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the newly formed Church. The Lord said He would send down His Spirit, and send He did. So powerfully will the early Church be affected by this Spirit that in the first three hundred years, our Popes will have the Signal Grace to die as Martyrs, as will most of the Faithful.
Through His Blood and Water, we receive all the nourishment we need for our journey Home to the Father. We humans receive life-giving nutrients to all parts of our bodies through the human blood that flows through our veins. And so, it is with our Church. This Blood that flowed from the Heart of Christ (Because of the mixture of Blood and Water flowing from the Side of Christ, scientists say that the tip of Jesus' Heart had to have been pierced by the Lance.) continues to feed and strengthen the entire Body of Christ, through His Holy Eucharist. With the Water from His Side, we receive the Living Water that Jesus spoke of in Holy Scripture. As humans, we can not live without water. We can live without food for a period of time, but it is virtually impossible for a human to live indefinitely without water. And so, without His Living Water, our Church could not have lived on for 2000 years. From the side of Christ, from His most Sacred Heart, the infant Church was formed. And this Church exists today 2000 years later, and will exist until our Lord returns.
John paints a picture of a little band, mostly brave women, standing at the foot of the Cross. They represent the Church, faithful, sharing in the suffering and redemption of the Savior's Cross. They are the Church Triumphant, the Church that stands by our Lord, faithful to His Word and to His mandate: "Do you really love Me? Feed My Lambs." As with the weeping women at the foot of the Cross, our Church mourns over one soul lost to the Lord and His Church, and rejoices when they return.
Archbishop Sheen tells us, "It's not weakness to hang on the Cross; it's obedience to the law of Sacrifice. If He came down, He never would have saved us. It's human to come down off the cross; it's Divine to hang there." As we go on to embrace the rewards of the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, we must never forget the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not bypass the Crucifixion, and go directly to the Resurrection. We cannot forget what Our Lord suffered to bring us to Redemption. We cannot belittle the sacrifice, the Son of God made for us.
More and more, our Protestant brothers and sisters are embracing Christ's suffering on the Cross. The offspring of the 6,000,000 children who had been lost to Protestantism are returning home to Mother Church. And we rejoice. The splinters of the Cross that were shattered by disobedience and misunderstanding are becoming whole once more, as brothers and sisters of Christ are coming back. And when they all return, then the Scandal of the Cross will truly become the Triumph of the Cross. The mourning of Good Friday and this Fifth Sorrowful Mystery will become the Alleluia of Easter Sunday and the First Glorious Mystery.
Our Lord said, "Peace I leave with you. My Peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give it to you."( John 14:27) As you walk with Jesus and Mary through this Rosary, take Lent and Easter, Pentecost and Christmas into your heart. Relive the life of Jesus and Mary. Go into Holy Scripture. Get to know your Father in Heaven, His only begotten Son Jesus, the Holy Spirit, our Mother Mary, the Angels and the Church. Don't take any of it for granted.
Make each Mass, a reenactment of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Be for Jesus with every step you take, with every breath, with every beat of your heart. Walk the Way of the Cross on Friday nights not only during Lent, but every Friday evening. Spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus suffered a heavy price so that we could have Him with us always.
Defend your Church against those who would compromise it, belittle it, or destroy it. And the best way to do that is by the way we actively, zealously love our Lord Jesus, and our brothers and sisters. Go to Him. He's waiting for you. Then see what graces will be bestowed upon your family, the Church, our country, the world by our Lord Who will not be surpassed in generosity.
About the Authors:
Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors of many best selling books about the Catholic Faith. They are hosts on EWTN Global Television and have written over 25 books. They are best known as the authors of “Miracles of the Eucharist books.” They have been dubbed, “Experts on the Saints.”