With today’s liturgy we enter into what the Church calls passiontide, that is, the two weeks leading up to Easter, and during which our thoughts and meditations are continually drawn into the mystery of the sufferings of the God Man, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Oddly enough, at the very time we are invited to contemplate the crucifix, the Church takes the crucifix from us, she hides it behind a dark coloured veil. There are indeed two ways of increasing desire. One is to put before oneself the object of one’s longing. Another is to hide that very object from sight. This latter method is chosen by our Mother the Holy Church. It is as if she is saying to us: you are accustomed to seeing the crucifix every day over the altar of sacrifice. Just keep in mind that this mystery is much greater than you will ever understand, and therefore it is good for you to have to make an effort to see, to comprehend, to delve deeper into the ocean of Divine Mercy and Justice, both of which are made manifest in the cross.
In the Gospel, we hear Our Lord pronounce some terrifying words to the Pharisees:
He who is of God hears the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, for you are not of God.
St Gregory tells us that, if this is so, then we must all ask ourselves if we hear the words of God. Which words? The Word that tells us to overcome the desires of the flesh, to turn away from the world’s honours, to not covet what is not ours, to give what is ours to those in need. Let each one of us ask ourselves if we hear these words of God deep down in our heart, for just as there are many who do not even make an effort to listen to the Word of God, so there are many who hear the Word with their ears, but do not embrace it with spiritual longing, and there are also many who hear the Word willingly and even are moved to tears of repentance, but afterwards return to their evil ways. These do not hear the Word of God since they neglect to put it into practice.
The Word of God is also the Word of the Cross, to employ an expression of St Paul to the Corinthians: “verbum crucis”. That word is folly to the worldlings who live for the ephemeral satisfactions of this life. But it is a word that contains a divine logic. “They who at present,” writes the author of the Imitation of Christ, “willingly hear and follow the word of the cross, shall not then be afraid of eternal condemnation. The sign of the Cross will be in heaven, when the Lord shall come to judge. Then all the servants of the cross, who in their life time have conformed themselves to Him that was crucified, shall come to Christ their judge with great confidence”
So, my dear friends, just as Moses was told to execute the plans of the ancient tabernacle according to what he had seen on Mount Sinai, so let us all strive to realise the model that has been shown to us on Mount Calvary. Let us seek to be conformed more and more to the image of a Lord who chose to offer His life for us in order to open the gates of eternal blessedness. Let us apply ourselves to hearing, to listening, to the Word that rings out, throughout the ages, wherever is to be found the image of the Crucified Lord. Folly it might be to the pagans; for us, it is power of God and wisdom of God.