The thing I dread the most on Good Friday is the Gospel reading. It’s one of those special Holy Week ones, where it takes the form of a sort of audience-participation skit. You’ve got a narrator, someone to play the role of functionaries like Pilate, the priest who reads for Jesus, and of course, you, the congregation, playing the role of the bloodthirsty mob baying for Christ’s blood.
I hate it because of how it makes me feel. I don’t want to be one of the number crying for the crucifixion. No one should. Surely, with the benefit of hindsight, we would speak differently today?
I love the Gospel reading because it’s one of the most visceral experiences you can have in a Catholic Mass (not, usually, one of the most gripping things you’ll ever sit through). Instead of just passively receiving the Word and then the Word-made-Flesh, you’re actually participating in the spectacle. You’ll have people who get really into it, who shout with hoarse voices, calling for Barabbas to be freed.
And I love it because of the lesson it teaches.
I don’t want to be one of the people responsible for Christ’s death, but, at the end of the day, I am. Christ died for the sins of all, not just for those in the crowd on that day; while he hung on the cross, between heaven and earth, the Father’s wisdom must have contemplated all the sins that Christ’s death would redeem — even the ones not yet committed. Even mine. And when Christ gave himself up to the Passion — the scourging, the suffering, the shame — he might have shared in that knowledge.
In the moment on Good Friday, I feel connected to the Crucifixion. I feel like, thousands of years ago, some small part of God had contemplated me, in all my iniquity and imperfection, and decided that yes, those too would be part of the burden he would bear.
By dint of my sin, I am no less responsible than the bloodthirsty crowd before the Praetorium that day for Christ’s suffering and death, because his sacrifice was no less for me than it was for them. In fact, I should bear the greater portion of blame, because while they didn’t know what they were doing, I do. When I sin, I do so with the benefit of hindsight, in full knowledge that every knowing sinful act is a deliberate lance driven into his side.
How different it is, to think of the exultation of the Magnificat. “My soul glorifies the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my saviour!”
Instead, when I sin, my soul cries out, “Crucify him!”