Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


"It is Christ’s Love Radiating from the Cross that is the Gateway to Interior Freedom"
Homily for Good Friday
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
April 6th, 2012
Year B


The great Italian baroque painter, Caravaggio, is one of the most famous painters in history. In the church of St Augustine, in Rome, one of his paintings illustrates two pilgrims kneeling in front of the baby Jesus, being held by his mother. The pilgrims, a man and a woman, are poorly clad, with walking sticks for their only possessions. Their hands are clasped in a heartfelt, almost desperate prayer. One of the poor pilgrims, the man, is barefoot. Both Jesus and Mary look at them with interest and compassion, listening intently. It was quite controversial when it was first unveiled. The painting was supposed to be placed above the viewer, on an altar so that when you look at it, you see clearly the faces of Jesus and Mary, but you see the pilgrims from their backs, slightly at an angle. At eye level, you are staring at the soles of the man’s feet as he kneels and prays; you are looking at the ugly, dirty, grimy soles of a poor pilgrim’s feet. The sophisticated public murmured that it was disrespectful to put someone’s dirty feet in such a prominent position, right above the altar. But they were wrong. Jesus came to earth precisely for that reason: to meet us right where we are, in the grime of our struggles, our wounds, and our sins, and to lift us up from there into his Kingdom. Good Friday – the celebration of the Lord’s Passion – reminds us of that: Jesus knows and understands the weakness of fallen humanity because He entered into; He bore it. 

As we recall the Lord’s Passion on this day we are reminded of just that – His misery, His suffering, and His death. The twentieth century theologian Msgr. Romano Guardini, highlights this point, noting that God followed man into the “vacuous dark” of sin to fetch him, to grab hold of him, and rescue him.

The question is why. Why did God do this for us? Why did He suffer such a humiliating and shameful death? This can be answered in two ways. In the first case, the brutal suffering of Our Lord reveals to us the true nature of sin. When we pray the words of the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass – “through my most grievous fault” – we are reminding ourselves, venial or grave, that sin distorts truth, lacks trust and causes disharmony in our relationships with God and others.

The second way in which we can answer this question lies in one of the meanings of the word ‘passion.’ The dictionary describes it as an ‘ardent desire’ or ‘intense emotion.’ Christ’s passion is at one and the same time suffering and pain as well as a manifestation of intense love. The Passion was an experience of the reality of sin. He experienced brutality, abandonment, rejection, mockery, betrayal, and so on. He experienced the totality of human weakness and transformed that suffering into a means of becoming one with Him by His intense love. He is able therefore, to endure the weight of His cross, the weight of sin because this love, as St. Paul reminds us: “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). His love is thus stronger than death and is the gateway to freedom – freedom of the heart.

It is this love that is depicted on the faces of Jesus and Mary in Caravaggio’s “Pilgrim Feet.” He does not portray them with a look of pity upon their misfortune. They don’t just feel sorry for them. The look is one of intense love and deep compassion – as if they knew them from the inside.

Our story is the story of these pilgrims. We too kneel before Our Lord with dirty feet – with our sins, our failings and our weaknesses. We have all experienced the pain of loss, the betrayal of a friend or even a relative or spouse, rejection, abandonment, mockery and slander of others – and yet, Christ looks upon us, from His cross, in the same way – with intense love. Now the question turns to us: how have we responded to that love? Have we ever truly experienced that love? We who have known Him our whole lives – where do we stand in the midst of this ardent love that He has for us? Are we able to come before Him this day, and everyday, with our whole hearts and return His love for us with our own love for Him?  By uniting ourselves in our weakness to the suffering Christ, then do we come to experience the true nature of His Passion. For it is this love that lifts us up, relieves us of our burdens, heals us of our sins, and we become totally absorbed by His love. It is Christ’s love radiating from the cross that is the gateway to interior freedom. Because, as we all know, it doesn’t end in death. It ends in resurrection, joy, life, and a renewal of grace in heart, mind and soul.
As we prepare now to adore the Holy Cross, may we have the courage to be open to the grace of Christ that He may reach out to us, touch our hearts, fill us with His grace and so be transformed from by His love for us.






Fr. Jon Reardon


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.




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