So much of my life I was caught up in what people would say instead of basing reality on their behaviors. This likely stems from having significant relationships in my life who were emotionally unavailable to me in my formative years. This destructive coping mechanism led me into a lot of wishful thinking and living in the hopeful future. After suffering the consequences of a failed marriage and another long-term dating relationship, I was able to see how this habit was not serving me well and was able to change my mindset to ensure that actions must match words.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus gives us the playbook to live a life of love and peace. Our faith is based on what God has promised but also on what He has done.
Even if you do not believe in me, believe the works.Focus on His truth, John 14:11
The greatest of all His works is the resurrection from the dead, which we will commemorate a few days from now. Works, or actions are always more powerful than words. Words may convince my mind but works move my will into action – to decision. Jesus continues to do the works of the Father today, through the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and sacramental confession. Through God’s grace and love, I see these works as they really are, true actions of Christ available with the power to transform me.
Good Friday and the Lord’s Passion is a work of pure love, beyond our human understanding. As Pope Francis says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus reveals that for every man and woman who wants to find him, He is the hidden seed ready to die in order to bear much fruit. As if to say: if you wish to know me, if you wish to understand me, look at the grain of wheat that dies in the soil, that is, look at the cross.”
The cross gives us a way out of the sin of our human nature. It is the ultimate act of a loving Father, to sacrifice His son who bears the weight of darkness and the world. I will always remember one Good Friday service where we venerated the cross. Emotions of gratitude, sadness and hope welled inside me as I kissed Jesus’ crucified feet – so powerful they will never leave me.
The Three Hours’ Agony, or Tre Ore, is a liturgical service held on Good Friday from noon until 3 o’clock to commemorate the Passion of Christ. Specifically, it refers to the three hours that Jesus hung on the Cross and includes a series of homilies on the seven last words spoken by Christ. Bishop Barron was invited by Timothy Cardinal Dolan in 2012 to preside over the Tre Ore service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York which you can watch. The service includes an hour of reflections on the Seven Last Words of Christ which you can listen to here.
As we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice this Good Friday, the Seven Last Words give us powerful insight into His thoughts as He took all the sins of mankind upon Himself. With these words, He forgives His enemies, forgives the penitent thief, cries out to God, and declares the end of His earthly life:
- “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
- “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
- “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.” John 19:26–27
- “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34
- “I thirst.” John 19:28
- “It is finished.” Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34
- “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46
This message of forgiveness provides a way out and path forward from the darkness of sin in our life. Christ’s love breaks the cycle of our natural human response where if you are cruel to me, I will be cruel to you. Gandhi also noted, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Christ did not run away or confirm the violence afflicted upon Him. Instead, He stayed, stood His ground by refusing to cooperate with the standards of this world and mirrored the violence to those who inflicted it upon Him. We have many other examples in the lives of the saints who model this for us. Saint Mother Teresa, after finding a child in the streets of Calcutta, brought her to a baker’s shop seeking bread for the child. The owner spit in her face. She thanked him for his gift for her and asked what about the child. Saint Pope John Paul II is another example where he went to his homeland of Poland to share the good news about God, human dignity, and human rights, drawing people into a new spiritual space where the people wanted God and the wall of communism was broken down. The power of love can change lives and societies. Actions speak louder than words – the cross is the purest example.
The Sign of the Cross is a simple prayer, an action where we can show our love, which bears great spiritual power. This profound gesture opens us up to God, renews our Baptism, and acts as a mark of Christian discipleship, one that repels the devil and helps us to resist our self-indulgence and tendency toward sin. In The Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer, Bert Ghezzi reminds us of its true significance. You can download this quick read here for free.
As we contemplate our Lord’s Passion on this Good Friday, I invite you to reflect upon how your daily actions reflect your love and gratitude for God’s goodness. Has your journey through Lent opened your heart to receive a deeper encounter with God’s love? Will you continue small sacrifices of self-denial, praying and serving others? Action speaks louder than words.
May we be smitten with the goodness of loving actions,