And God held in his hand a small globe.
Look, he said.
The son looked.
Far off, as through water, he saw a scorched land of fierce color.
The light burned there, crusted buildings cast their shadows
a bright serpent, a river uncoiled itself, radiant with slime.
On a bare hill a bare tree saddened the sky.
Many people held out their thin arms to it,
as though waiting for a vanished April to return to its crossed boughs.
The son watched them.
Let me go there, he said.
That is the poem “The Coming” by R.S. Thomas. It speaks of Jesus’ willingness to come to this world in order to save the people of God and it expresses a love that goes beyond our ability to comprehend. It also sets the stage of where we are today.
I can give you the details of the crucifixion, the process of nailing Jesus to the cross and all that. The blood. The agony. The cruelty of the crowd that gathered to watch. But today, instead of looking, I want you to listen to the sounds surrounding that event.
There would be the voices of all those gathered: the guards, people moving around, some weeping, the groans of those crucified alongside Jesus. But the only sound I want you to hear is the heavy labored breathing of Jesus as he hangs upon his cross. And then he speaks one last time, “It is finished.” Then there is a great silence.
Although it is painful, we must remember that it was the sins of the world, including ours, that put Jesus on the cross. We are as responsible as the ones who hammered the nails.
So, I want you to imagine when Jesus breathes his last and that great silence falls, you suddenly hear a voice. Even though there are many gathered around you, you know that voice is speaking to you and it is the voice of God the Father.
In that moment and in that silence, knowing that you are responsible for the death of Jesus, what would you imagine the voice of God saying to you?
I think that it would be easy to hear anger in that voice: “Look what you have done!” “What have you got to say for yourself?” “I’m so disappointed in you.”
I believe there would be such sadness. The horrible screams of a parent who has lost a child: “My son. My son.”
Finally, I can imagine words of rejection, “Get out of my sight!” “You make me sick!” “I never want to see you again.”
I can imagine these responses, because they are very human responses. They are the words that come from our mouths in times of great anger and sadness, but the voice of God that speaks in the silence of your heart after the death of his one and only son never even thinks, much less says, anything of this nature.
Instead, God the Father would speak words of comfort: “Everything is going to be OK now.” “This had to happen just as I planned.” “Don’t be afraid.” “Remember what my son said, ‘In three days this temple will be raised.’”
There would also be words of love and acceptance: “This act of obedience by my son has bridged the gap between you and I.” “My love for you extends beyond eternity.” “We will be together forever. I will be your God and you will be my child.”
Scripture records no such words from God at that moment when the silence fell, but no words needed to be spoken. The cross and the lifeless body of Jesus declared it all. “For God so loved the world….”
In just a few minutes, as we approach the veneration of the cross, allow yourself to hear the voice of God speaking to you. Understand that the cross is not brought before you as a means of beating you into submission or of making you feel guilty. It is brought in, venerated, and adored because it is God’s way of speaking and showing his love for you. It is the means by which true joy came into the world, for as the closing words of the anthem will declare, “We venerate your Cross, O Lord: and praise and glorify your holy Resurrection: for by virtue of the Cross joy has come to the whole world.”