Good Friday: Invisible face of God made visible

Jesus came to manifest the invisible face of God. He made the real name of God known that is Mercy and real face of God that is Mercy.  From Incarnation to Crucifixion he went about revealing the invisible face of God, manifesting the real power of God, mercy. To include the excluded, to reach to the periphery and proclaim the joy of the Gospel he spent his life and died on the cross. I have come not to condemn the world but to redeem the world, he said. It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.  Neither do I condemn you he told the bewildered woman caught in adultery.  Who has not sinned, failed, fumbled, faltered and fallen?  Let him throw the first stone who has not sinned.   “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith in his blood… He justifies the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:23-26). 

Pope Francis has been urging the Church, and the world at large, to “get out of ourselves and go toward the periphery.” Jesus commanded his disciples to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). These last words of Jesus to his disciples urge them (and us) to “get out of themselves (ourselves) and go to the periphery.”  Self sufficiency and indifference can be killing others.

Where do we find the periphery? The dictionary definition of periphery is “the outside edge of an area or the area that surrounds a place or thing.” Pope Francis is referring to those areas that contain people who are social outcasts, on the “margins” of social acceptability, as being “the periphery.” He admonishes us to step outside of our comfort zones (another of Pope Francis’s frequent expressions) and to open our hearts to others, especially those who have been rejected by society.

In the Gospels, Samaritans are clearly “on the periphery” of Jewish society. So are lepers and those caught in sins such as adultery. As we read in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “While he was at table in his [Levi’s/Matthew’s] house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ He heard this and said, ‘Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” ’ ” (Mt 9: 10–13).

In other words, the periphery is not confined to geography or social, economic or legal status or to our religious or political points of view. Anyone who is different from us stands outside our comfort zone. Getting outside ourselves and going to the periphery can mean any effort to reach out to others with compassion and understanding. It does not mean that we abandon our beliefs, principles or way of life. But it does mean that we open ourselves to those who are different from us and, in so doing, share with them the good news that all are loved by God and redeemed in Christ.

In his homily at Lampedusa, a large island near Sicily that has witnessed the tragic drowning of hundreds of African refugees attempting to find asylum in Italy, Pope Francis lamented what he called the anesthesia of the heart. “We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion for [suffering with] others; the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!” “Anesthesia of the heart” is not a Christian virtue. As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, let’s recommit ourselves to obeying Jesus’ command. Let’s go out of our comfort zones into the whole world, including the periphery, to proclaim his Good News!

We have the opportunity to make, on this Good Friday, the most important decision of our lives, one that opens wide before us the doors of eternity: to believe! To believe that "Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification" (Rom 4:25)! And we all have been commissioned to proclaim the joy of the Gospel that God loves the world unconditionally. Incarnation and crucifixion show the invisible face of the merciful God. Our challenge today: be merciful like the Father -  reach out, touch and heal the broken world.