Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday word, 14 Apr 17

Good Friday (14 Apr 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Holy Week Retreat, Guelph, ON
“Lightening Marks”

The Passion According to John makes its point: Jesus’ cross wasn’t only an instrument of his shameful torture and death; his cross was the throne of our King’s glory. The gospel’s conviction is no solution: the notions, shame and glory, collide in our minds; our hearts tremble as we try to hold together dying by public asphyxiation and undying presence with God.

Yet Christians remind one another that Jesus’ dying into God’s undying presence calls us not to ignore any suffering and death and to look through human anguish to life. So this vision can be our ever-new vision, Jesus’ cross is our lens. Can we better appreciate Jesus’ cross? venerate it? carry it? A contemporary writer offered a useful image.

Annie Dillard wrote: American “Indians…used to carve long grooves along the wooden shafts of their arrows. They called the grooves ‘lightning marks,’ because they resembled the curved fissures lightning slices down the trunks of trees. The function of lightning marks is this: if the arrow fails to kill the game, blood from a deep wound will channel along the lightning mark, streak down the arrow shaft, and splatter to the ground, laying a trail dripped on broadleaves, on stones, that the barefoot and trembling archer can follow into whatever deep or rare wilderness it leads.”1

Her image helps me see with Jesus. We see lightning marks of other kinds surround us. Lives scarred by suffering and death scar us and cut us deeply. Blood is poured out in numerous places near and far. The cries of the poor and oppressed, and our affirmation of them in deed as well as prayer, call beyond anguish and despair.

Calls beyond ourselves received clear voice from the cross and its mystery. Can we not say the cross of Jesus is the lightning mark of God? Might this be what you and I seek? Holding the cross, bearing our crosses we see ourselves anew: we realize each of us is “the barefoot and trembling archer,” who follows the trail through life’s wilderness to find the very heart of God. Jesus’ cross graces us with his divine spirit and pioneering love. His pioneering love dots the trails of our lives; it trains us and forms us as God’s scouts. 

Trained scouts see what others overlook. God’s scouts note each dot, each drop of blood calls, ‘God loves forever.’ By God’s forever-love God reaches into and beyond the grave. God reaches into and beyond each valley of death that veils from sight the attitude of Christ.2 God reaches into and beyond every setback that prevents us from putting on the attitude of Christ. God’s forever-love alive in us frees us to be “forgetful of self in…generous and ready service of all the abandoned.”3 

Jesus’ attitude frees us to forget self more consistently. His attitude makes no human sense when we forget he nurtured intimate relationship with God: Jesus lived faithful to God’s heart. Jesus invites and graces us to do likewise. Jesus freely continues giving his attitude to all who desire to receive it.

Ask Jesus to help you stay near him and his cross. As you hold it ask Jesus to help you see the cross as the “lightening mark” of God’s pioneering love. For God’s pioneering love Jesus daily chooses us as his trained scouts for the life of our world.


  1. “Heaven and Earth in Jest,” Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Olive Editions (HarperCollins), 2016 (1974), pp. 14-15.
  2. Philippians 2.5: the Greek word often translated as mind connotes feeling and emotion in addition to intellectual activity; therefore attitude translates the Greek word well.
  3. Society of Jesus, General Congregation 32, Decree 12.4 (Poverty), [260]

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