Posted by: fvbcdm | April 19, 2014

Good Friday (18 March 2014)

Today is Good Friday, the day on which much of the Christian world observes the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Years ago, I read a very moving book called “A Doctor at Calvary,” written by a French physician named Pierre Barbet. He accepted the shroud of Turin as being authentic, and beginning there, he examined the shroud carefully from a medical point of view and then described his findings in his book, which makes very powerful reading for those of us who love Our Lord and recognize that he died that terrible death for our redemption. Then, more recently, we have been inundated with information about the crucifixion of Jesus. The shroud of Turin has continued to fascinate the Christian world since its rediscovery toward the end of the 19th century when a photographer took a picture of it, and was astounded to find that the negative of his photograph was a positive image of the body of man who had suffered a severe beating, crowning with thorns, and then an apparent crucifixion since there are wounds in the hands and feet of the man on the shroud. I remember vividly Dr. Barbet’s choice of words, at least in English translation, when, after analyzing the sort of suffering depicted on the shroud, he speaks of the “ghastly suffering” of anyone who would be subjected to that kind of torture.

Then, in the 80’s, a carbon-14 test of the shroud was made and the scientists who conducted it concluded that the shroud is a fake since their findings pointed to a medieval origin of the shroud rather than one from the time of Christ.  However, it has subsequently been discovered that the samples which they used were taken from patches sewn on the shroud much later than its origin, as the result of a fire in the church where the shroud was preserved. More recent tests indicate that the original cloth does indeed date from the time of Jesus.

In  recent years we have seen Mel Gibson’s striking movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” which has brought to the attention of the movie-going public—not necessarily a devoutly Christian audience—the crucifixion of Jesus. And on the front page of today’s Times-Picayune, our New Orleans daily newspaper, there begins a long article on the physical causes of Jesus’s death.

The author comes to a conclusion similar to that of Dr. Barbet: a man crucified dies not so much from simple loss of blood, but rather of suffocation because of the increasing difficulty in breathing when immobilized in that position for hours combined with traumatic shock to the human body caused by loss of body fluids and blood. These authors and movie directors agree that the suffering of one subjected to that kind of death is terrible—possibly the greatest kind of physical cruelty ever devised by the inhumanity of man.

We must not lose sight of these clinical considerations as we observe Good Friday this year. It was a terrible Friday because of the agony that Our Lord suffered. It was terrible because the immaculate heart of his mother underwent a martyrdom all her own as she stood beside the cross and watched her divine son die in such pain. But we call it “Good” Friday because on that occasion, our savior showed his goodness to us by undergoing all that misery in atonement for our sins and for the redemption of our souls.

Greater love than this no man has, Jesus had said during his public life, than that he lay down his life for his friends. Not only did he speak of that supreme sacrifice; he accomplished it. As we look at the crucifix, we must always remember that he is basically saying to each of us from the cross, “I love you, and I have been willing to do even this for you, that you may be with me forever in heaven.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago


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