‘What lesson will Jesus teach you?’
CHARLOTTE — In a silent procession to begin the Good Friday liturgy, Bishop Peter Jugis entered St. Patrick Cathedral and lay prostrate before the sanctuary steps, humbling himself before God and in the presence of the faithful. This annual service held at 3 p.m., the hour Jesus Christ expired on the cross, recalls the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son for the salvation of souls.
The liturgy began with the reading of The Passion narrated by transitional Deacon Christopher Bond, with Deacon Brian McNulty as the voice, Bishop Jugis as Jesus and the congregation responding as the crowd. They took those gathered on the tortuous journey Christ suffered from the Garden of Gethsemane through His crucifixion on Golgotha.
“Have you ever taken the time to take a good look at the crucifix that you have in your home? Especially if you are having a particularly difficult time or a rough day, to find strength or courage just by your union with the Lord crucified?” Bishop Jugis asked during his homily.
“The word ‘behold’ appears several times today in this celebration of the Passion of the Lord,” he noted. “The invitation to behold, or to take a good look at – just as you would take a good look at the crucifix. That word behold used in today’s liturgy receives many different responses from the various audiences to which it is addressed.”
Bishop Jugis elaborated by pointing out that Pontius Pilate, when he brings Jesus out and displays Him on the judge’s bench, says to the mob, “Behold your king.” And the crowd responds, “Take Him away, crucify Him!”
“Behold Him, look at Him, your king,” Pilate says. And the crowd answers back, “No!”
Jesus uses the same word "behold" later on, as He hangs on the cross. As He tells His disciples to ‘behold' their mother, they respond: “Seeing His mother and His disciple there whom He loved, He says to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son. And then to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.’”
In today's secularized world, Bishop Jugis noted, society gives the same negative response when Christians say, “Behold your King. Behold Jesus. Behold His teachings and His Church’s teachings."
“Just as in Pilate’s time, the mob responds, ‘Take Him away and crucify Him,’” Bishop Jugis said.
In contrast, when a believer is asked to "behold," the response is very different, he continued.
“In this liturgy today, we are asked three times to behold: ‘Behold the Cross. Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the Salvation of the World.’ Using a true relic of the Cross, in fact, to behold the true Cross," Bishop Jugis said.
“The response that comes from the heart of the believers is, ‘Come, let us adore’ as we kneel in adoration. A very different response than the mob would give to the word behold.
“Later on at Communion time, we are asked, ‘Now, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ and who is really present,” Bishop Jugis said.
“The response from the believer is not, ‘Take Him away and crucify Him,’ but rather in humility and love – ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’”
Bishop Jugis then asked the faithful at the standing-room-only Good Friday liturgy some questions.
“What lesson will Jesus teach you as you draw close to Him in faith and love this day, to behold His Cross and then to behold Him in the living sacrament of His Body?” he asked.
“Will the lesson that He teaches you be forgiveness of others? On the Cross, Jesus shows us how when He says, 'Father, forgive them for they do not know not what they are doing.'
“Or will the lesson (be) that Jesus teaches us when we behold Him and His cross ... charity towards others? Jesus teaches us the supreme lesson of charity when He says, ‘Father, greater love hath no man but that he lay down his life for his friends.'
“Or will the lesson be, as we behold Him, patience with oneself and with others? The Scripture says, as we just heard in the reading from Isaiah to begin this liturgy: 'Like a sheep led before the shearers, He was silent and He opened not His mouth.’
“Or will the lesson be, as we behold Him, service to others in a humble, generous spirit? Jesus says that He has come to serve and not to be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
“Or will the lesson be obedience? Or will the lesson be faithfulness? Just to name a few other of the great lessons that we can learn from Jesus as we behold Him this day,” Bishop Jugis said.
The faithful came forward twice during the Good Friday liturgy – first to venerate the cross as Bishop Jugis had done, and then to receive Holy Communion. Young and old came forward to kiss the cross when it was held out to them for veneration.
Bishop Jugis encouraged the faithful in his closing remarks, saying, “It is by beholding Jesus, with faith and love and humility, that the image of Christ will grow in each one of us.”
— SueAnn Howell, senior reporter