On the day that Christians around the world remember Christ’s crucifixion, hundreds of people gathered at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington to reflect upon His death during a Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
“The cross, which stands in the very center of today and dominates our vision, our thoughts, our imagination and our liturgy, is the living symbol – the sign – of God’s all encompassing love for us,” Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily.
That love, he continued, is made visible through Jesus’ pain, suffering, passion, death, and “just how freely we are able to access the fount of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.”
Reflecting on Pope Francis’s words, “God never tires of forgiving us. We sometimes get tired of asking for forgiveness,” Cardinal Wuerl noted that despite giving their best efforts, followers of Christ often fail to do the right thing.
“Why do we often find ourselves doing what we know we should not do or failing to do those things we know deep down we ought to do?” he asked. “…But perhaps the more important question is, what do we do in the face of this overwhelming, perplexing and devastating reality – the human condition?”
Looking forward to when the congregation would later come forward to venerate the cross, Cardinal Wuerl said, “We come to the foot of the cross because we recognize what Jesus endured for us.”
“We recognize the possibility of our redemption,” he continued. “In spite of our failures, our sins, our weaknesses, Jesus not only loves us, but He hung on the cross for each one of us. He shed His blood unto death for each one of us; you and me today in this cathedral church.”
Cardinal Wuerl encouraged everyone never to hesitate to ask for the faith to believe in Christ’s love or the forgiveness that He offers.
“The reason why you and I can come to the foot of the cross and stand there with Mary and John is because we know that Jesus welcomes us,” he said. “We are not abstractions. We are not a generic humanity. We are the reason He came and why He gladly took up the cross in the first place.”
The motivation to continue striving to do the right thing, Cardinal Wuerl said, is the hope to someday hear the same words that Jesus told the criminal being crucified beside him: “You will be with me in Paradise.”
For this, and for how Christ ransomed humanity from their sins, Cardinal Wuerl encouraged everyone to say a simple “Thank You, Lord Jesus,” as they reverenced the cross.
“Even with our bruises, stains and failures, Jesus looks at us and sees in us so much more,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “Our consolation today is not in our claim to be perfect, but rather in the knowledge that even in our failure, Jesus loves us.”
Following the intercessions, Cardinal Wuerl processed down the center aisle of the cathedral holding a crucifix, as the congregation said, “Come let us adore.” Once he reached the front, concelebrating priests brought crucifixes to the congregation and people came forward one by one to venerate and offer thanks to Jesus.
Archdiocese of Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville celebrated a second Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord in Spanish, after hundreds of Hispanic pilgrims who had processed from Our Lady Queen of the Americas Parish down Connecticut Avenue arrived at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in downtown Washington. Cardinal Wuerl greeted them as the entered the cathedral.
Tomorrow, the cardinal will be the main celebrant of the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, celebrating Christ’s resurrection and welcoming 26 people into the Catholic Church.