under the patronage of St Joseph and St Dominic
By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion;
“Was it necessary for the Son of God to suffer for us? It was most necessary, and on two counts: first as a remedy for our sins, and secondly as a model for our behaviour… If anyone wants to live a perfect life, he has only to despise the things Christ despised on the cross, and to desire what Christ desired there. The cross provides an example of every virtue.
“If you are looking for an example of charity, ‘Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ This was what Christ did on the cross. If he gave up his life for us, it ought not to be a burden for us to put up with every evil, no matter what, for his sake.
“If you are looking for patience, you will find it in its highest form on the cross. The greatness of patience is measured in two ways, either by the suffering of grievous things, or the suffering of things which one could have evaded but did not. Christ suffered greatly and with patience on the cross: ‘When he suffered, he did not threaten; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth.’ That is how great was the patience of Christ on the cross. ‘Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before him, endured the cross, despising the shame.’
“If you are looking for an example of humility, look at the cross. There, God willed to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.
“If you are looking for an example of obedience, follow him who was obedient to the Father, even unto death. ‘For as by one man’s disobedience, (this refers to Adam), many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.’
“If you are looking for a model of contempt for earthly things, follow him who is the ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords’, him ‘in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge’. He was naked on the cross, derided and spat upon, struck and crowned with thorns, and given vinegar to drink. Do not, then, be attached to fine clothes and riches, for ‘They divided my garments among them’. Seek not for honours, for he knew mockery and beating. Seek not honourable rank, because ‘They plaited a crown of thorns and placed it upon my head’. Seek not after fine foods, ‘For my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink’.”
St Thomas Aquinas, Conferences on the Creed, n. 6 [Office of Readings 28th January]
Two incidents in the writer’s experience may serve to illustrate the importance of Good Friday in the economy of salvation and that it affects all men, not just Catholics.
Back in March 1973 a sign appeared on the door of what was then Sydney’s only shop for bushwalking and cross country skiing gear, Paddy Palin’s—
The snow season that followed was notoriously one of the worst the country has experienced.
One Easter Monday many years later, one of Sydney’s best and most experienced bushwalkers, a Catholic whom we will call Peter, was injured in a fearful motor accident in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney as he returned from a long walking trip over the Easter break. The injuries he suffered ensured that he would never walk in the wilds again. In the course of a visit by the writer to him in hospital two weeks later, Peter said that it was impossible to convey the mental sufferings he had endured as a result of the accident: “I thought I was in Hell,” he said.
It was some time after this during a conversation with one of his fellow walkers that Easter, the writer discovered the background to the tragedy. After the members of the group had arisen on the Good Friday morning, Peter had weighed the Church’s law that compels every Catholic to abstain from meat that day to be united with the sufferings of his Redeemer, and rejected it with a profanity.