I remember the first time someone else took the blame for something I had done or rather failed to do. I had been asked to clean out the fryers at the fast food restaurant I worked at. Throughout my shift I kept finding other things to do. If you’ve ever had to clean out a fryer, you know that it is messy work and there isn’t really a way to do it without getting the oil on the floor and all over you. I skimmed them really good and cleaned up the area, but never actually broke them down and cleaned them. The next day when I came in, I was asked why I didn’t get them done. Sales weren’t high enough the night before to warrant them not being cleaned. As I was about to make an excuse why I didn’t get them done, the shift supervisor from the night before jumped in and said it was his fault and that he had had me doing other things.
Today, we see this on a grander scale, literally a scale of life or death. Because of God’s love for us, and the love Jesus has for us - not only as the Son of God – but as a fellow human being fully understanding the nature of what it means to be human, he accepts the punishment in our place.
And even more than that, he does it without complaining, without fighting back, without even looking at us to say with a look, “you should be here, not me.”
Today, we see what it means to love like God loves. We see the selfless example of Jesus being accused, beaten, tortured even, and crucified, without ever once raising his voice in self-defense, without raising his hand in anger or retribution.
Today, we can stand at the foot of the cross with tears in our eyes knowing that our guilt has been taken away, our sins removed, our hearts once again made right with God.
Today, we cry in sorrow for the death of an innocent victim. We cry because we know it should be us up there on that cross paying the price for our own sins.
Now we get the chance to go out and show that same kind of love and forgiveness, that same kind of mercy and acceptance to others. Jesus paid the price for our redemption – a price we could never pay ourselves. Now we have the opportunity and the obligation to pay it forward and to help others – not just by our words, but by our actions. By the way we live our daily lives, not just while gathered for Mass, but in our everyday mundane lives.
Do we just walk past a homeless person that asks for some spare change? Or do we stop and dig in our pockets and share what has been gifted to us?
Do we just blame the parents when we are standing in the grocery store line and the child is screaming at the top of her lungs? Or do we say a silent prayer for the parent or grandparent, because we honestly have no idea what is going on in their lives at that moment?
How we treat and respond to each other, to strangers, to everyone is how we show that we know and understand the price Jesus paid for us today.
And saying that, I also have to say that I went back and told the store manager that it really was my fault that the fryers didn’t get cleaned, and I was honest with her as to why. She thanked me for that and then explained the importance of why they need to be cleaned out the way we were to do it.
Today we are told the importance of why we should be taking care of those most in need, and being Jesus to them while seeing Jesus in them.