I hope that lingering at the cross and hearing the Lord’s cry helped you better appreciate the Lord’s suffering and sacrifice on the cross.
A question that has always bothered me about Holy Week is “Why?” What’s the point of Jesus going all the way? Surely there must have been alternative–less painful and more efficient–ways of redeeming humankind. After all, God is all-powerful and could surely have figured out another way.
In all the years I’ve prayed, reflected, and studied the Passion of the Lord, the best answer I’ve found lies in that detail at the end of our Gospel passage: At the moment that Jesus cried out for the last time, the curtain at the Temple of Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom.
It was a significant miracle that could mean different things, but there is one that I’ve always shared during my retreats because it has never failed to move me. For me, among all the many “explanations” for the crucifixion, it remains the one that has spoken to me the most deeply.
The torn curtain stands for what our Lord Jesus accomplishes with his death on the cross.
For us to appreciate that, we need to understand that the curtain in question was not merely a decorative one. It served a very important function in the Temple of Jerusalem. It was the veil that separated the people from the Holy of Holies, which was the innermost sanctuary of the Tabernacle, where it was believed that Yahweh’s presence resided.
That the temple curtain would be torn at Jesus’ death was very symbolic because it means that our Lord’s death on the cross removed every possible separation between God and us. By allowing himself to experience ultimate separation from God on the cross, our Lord has embraced that human experience and blessed it. Because he went through our lot as sinners, there no longer remains any barrier between us and God.
Think about how significant and subversive that is for a moment: There is no human condition in this world that lies beyond God’s embrace. In whatever terrible situation we find ourselves, we have no right to say that God has abandoned us because Jesus is there. In short, there is no place too dark or too far from God. Even in sin, we are not separated from Him–as long as we turn towards Him and seek Him.
With Jesus’ death, what used to be a barrier to God has now become a wide open door.
All we need to do is to walk in the door.
This is the meaning of our Lord’s death on the cross.
Think for a moment of a time when you felt most separated from God. You weren’t. Even there, Jesus was with you. That is what he accomplished through his death on the cross.