Passion Friday - III Class Feria
Commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of the BVM
Missa Miserere Mihi
Epistle: Jer. 17: 13-18 [Prophecy about Christ's enemies attacking Him.]
In those days, Jeremia said: O Lord, all who forsake You shall be in disgrace; the rebels in the land shall be put to shame; they have forsaken the source of living waters, the Lord. Heal me, Lord, that I may be healed; save me, that I may be saved, for it is You whom I praise. See how they say to me, ‘Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come to pass!’ Yet I am not troubled, following You as my shepherd; the day without remedy I have not desired. You know what passed my lips; it is present before You. Do not be my ruin, You, my refuge in the day of misfortune. Let my persecutors, not me, be confounded; let them, not me, be broken. Bring upon them the day of misfortune, crush them with repeated destruction, O Lord, our God.
Gospel: Jn. 11: 47-54 [The pharisees plot to kill Jesus.]
At that time, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together a council against Jesus, and said, What are we doing? for this man is working many signs. If we let Him alone as He is, all will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. But one of them, Caiphas, being high priest that year, said to them, You know nothing at all; nor do you reflect that it is expedient for us that one man die for the people, instead of the whole nation perishing. This, however, he said not of himself; but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was to die for the nation; and not only for the nation, but that He might gather into one the children of God who were scattered abroad. So from that day forth their plan was to put Him to death. Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but withdrew to the district near the desert, to a town called Ephrem; and there He stayed with His disciples.
Today is the Feast of the Seven Sorrows, but at the same time it isn't. Today has two Masses on the calendar and priests can choose either Mass. Now, this happens all the time with IV Class Ferias that have a commemoration of one saint or another on the calendar. But today it is a privileged feria and the commemoration is of what is in practice a II Class Feast. It's rather unique. The Mass of Our Lady gives us a small reprieve as it is said with white vestments, Psalm 42, the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in excelsis, and even a sequence.
In the ferial Mass, the theme is that Christ being surrounded by His enemies. It is remeniscent of the line in Psalm 42, Quare me repulisti et quare tristis incedo, dum affligit inimicus? (Why have You cast Me off, and do I go sorrowful, while the enemy afflicts me?) Ironic, because we do not hear Psalm 42 in the ferial Mass, only the festal today. The same theme echoes in Psalm 21, which we will hear Our Blessed Lord proclaim from the cross on Sunday, Deus, Deus Meus, quare me dereliquisti? (God, My God, why have You abandoned me?) The Epistle is a lament prompted by the pain and suffering that Christ endured for us. The pain that Christ endured was so severe that even the high priest of the religion He Himself founded through Abraham & Moses says "that it is expedient for us that one man die for the people, instead of the whole nation perishing."
Ironically, that is exactly what happened. That was exactly Christ's intention. The Jewish High Priest wanted Christ dead out of fear of the Romans. He knew that the Messiah was to be a King that would be victorious in battle. What he didn't get was that while the Messiah always was and always will be a Military Commander & Hero, the warfare is spiritual, not physical. So the Romans, who could easily crush any rival rule easily, weren't actually that much of a threat. Pilate figured this out, that His reign is "not from this world" and refused to kill Christ, but eventually caved in as the chief priests were trying to start a riot among the people.
On the other side, "dying for the people" is exactly what Christ was trying to do. We have our enemy in this war, the Devil, attacking us and turning our should-be allies into enemies. We are the ones in this predicament, not God. However God so loved us that He became Man in order to fight the battle that we, because we are sinners, are too weak to fight. He took our pain and suffering upon Himself and bore the brunt of the enemy attacks that we might live. We were and are getting slaughtered by the Devil who wants us to sin and tolerate sin as sin separates us from God. God wants to be with us so much that He offered Himself as a sacrifice to make satisfaction for our sins. Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross that we might not die and instead be with Him in Heaven. When two people fall in love and are called to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, that love is a love so strong that you are willing to die for the person in their defense. There is no hesitation. There is no doubt. You are absolutely sure and at the drop of a hat you would give your life to defend the one you love. Infatuation falsely called love can't do this. Even in deep mutual infatuation there is still that element of doubt, even though it might be small. There is never any doubt once it has become love. This is how a man loves his wife, this is how Christ loves His Bride. He died to free Her from the Devil's attacks, that He might be with her in Heaven.