From Soul of Christ
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the Sabbath, especially because that Sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” (John 19:31-37).
Theme for Holy Hour:
Suggested opening hymn: “O Esca Viatorum,” traditional, or “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” written by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring.
Ask for the light of the Holy Spirit in listening and praying with God’s word.
(Suggested prayer / hymn: “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” written by Edwin Hatch, adapted by Anthony G. Petti.)
Adoring Jesus In His Word
You may wish to read this gospel passage very slowly three times, allowing the words to sink in deeply.
These powerful details from an eyewitness draw us in to that moment beneath the cross, standing side-by-side with Mary, John, and the holy women. In silence we gaze as Jesus’s sacred body is desecrated one more time.
The saints often called the crucifix their book which they never stopped reading.
The enormity of what we see – the Son of God dead on the cross, having poured out his life for us – can make us uncomfortable. We might even look away. But we must not let guilt or shame cloud our vision of the crucifixion. Jesus chose to die for us so that our guilt would be washed away in the healing blood and water from his wounded side. Let us receive what Jesus so desperately wants to give us – salvation and the fullness of life.
Can you imagine standing beneath the cross of Jesus, with Mary, Mary Magdalene, and John?
Which words or phrases in the reading move your heart?
A wise and holy tradition in our Roman Catholic faith places crucifixes everywhere – in our churches and in our homes. “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” We are the “they” referred to in the gospel. But how are we to gaze on a crucifix, on this scene of senseless, tragic, unjust violence?
With a gaze that will transform us – a contemplative gaze. A gaze that does not shy away from what we see, a gaze that seeks to understand the gift of love underneath the horror of crucifixion.
As an act of faith in Jesus’s love, renew your baptismal promises. (They can be found in the missal during Easter time.)
If you can’t find a copy, pray the Nicene Creed.
True contemplation involves two qualities: receptivity and love.
Growing in Contemplation: Receptivity
We gaze on the crucifix, on our crucified Lord, and take in the details that we see. Sometimes it helps to focus on just one detail: the nail in one of his hands, the way his head droops, one thorn, the scrapes on his knees, or perhaps today, at the gaping wound in his side – the wound that leads directly to his heart.
Allow some time for quiet contemplation of one of the precious wounds of Jesus.
This traditional prayer may help us enter into a spirit of grateful contemplation:
Holy wound in the side of my Jesus, I adore you. I offer you my compassion, O my Jesus, for the cruel insult you suffered. I thank you, my Jesus, for the love which allowed your side and heart to be pierced, so that the last drops of blood and water might come forth, redeeming me. I offer to the Eternal Father this outrage, and the love of your most sacred humanity, that my soul may enter once and for all into your most loving heart, eager and ready to receive the greatest sinners, so that from you I may nevermore depart.
Holy Mother, pierce me through; / In my heart each wound renew / Of my Savior crucified.
We allow the path of that wound to lead us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And we remain there, allowing whatever we feel to simply arise, and then we return our gaze back to Jesus, back to his wound of love that heals the world.
Blood and water pour forth from this wound, a “cleansing tide” that has the power to wash away not just our sins but the sins of the world. The world longs for this cleansing, although it doesn’t know it. But we are not unaware. We can receive this cleansing and be freed from the chains of the sinful tendencies that hold us back and hinder us from reaching our full potential. This water does not just wash us, but heals us and draws us closer to the living God. Dare we allow this longing for cleansing and renewal to grow in us?
Following Jesus Way
If we are able to remain still, we will be immersed in the tidal wave of Jesus’s love for us – a love that overcomes sin and death.
Alberione wrote, “The life of Jesus is lost through sin. This life has its breath, which is prayer; its nourishment, which is meditation; its sicknesses, which are imperfections and defects; its resource, which is fervor; its joys, which are consolations; its sadnesses, which are desolations; its growth in the saints. Anyone who acts in Jesus Christ is like the branch which partakes in his life, that is, grace: ‘He it is that bears much fruit,’ (John 15:5). The life of Jesus Christ is infinite; therefore, the merit and the grace in our heart can grow indefinitely. Let us desire to become saints, and to do so quickly – great saints in Jesus Christ. Let us be in the very heart of Jesus Christ, who immolates himself upon the altars.”
Resting in the heart of Christ, we can ask ourselves:
- What healing do I wish to pray for as I rest in the heart of Jesus?
We make our examination of conscience, reflecting on these questions, and praying for healing and renewal.
- Whom do I want to bring with me into the heart of Jesus to be healed? A loved one? Someone whose need for healing and hope impressed me? Someone I have read about or heard about?
- How can I “live in continual conversion,” allowing the love of Jesus to transform me so that my love and my life truly become like his?
In profound gratitude, we offer our love to the pierced heart of Jesus. Let us fulfill the desire of his heart, asking him to let the blood and water from his heart engulf us, so that, knowing and accepting his saving love more deeply, we can be transformed: freed from fear, freed from selfishness, freed from sin.
You may wish to sing or prayerfully read the hymn, “Song Over the Waters,” composed by Marty Haugen,
while praying for healing, forgiveness, and renewal.
We enter the wound in his side and take refuge there, asking for his forgiveness, healing, strength, and perseverance.
Growing in Contemplation: Love
Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John contains the prayer of Jesus to his Father the night before he died. When we read it prayerfully, we find the sentiments with which Christ would offer his life. John 17 is a profound way to contemplate the love of the heart of Christ for us and for the world.
In Union With Jesus
In union with Jesus, pray John 17 for his disciples, for the church today, for all those who have not yet received the saving love of Christ Jesus. Offer your heart with his for the life of the world.
We remain still, gazing on our Master’s pierced side. Later, Jesus will invite Thomas to put his hand into his side. We cannot touch the Master’s wound with our hands, but we can touch his wound with our faith and love, praying this traditional prayer:
Prayer Before A Crucifix
Good and sweet Jesus, before your face I humbly kneel and with great fervor of spirit I pray and implore you to instill deep into my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, charity, true sorrow for my sins, and a firm purpose to amend my life, while I contemplate with great sorrow and love your five wounds, pondering over them in my mind while remembering the words which David the prophet spoke long ago about you, my Jesus: “They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have numbered all my bones,” (Psalm 22:16-17).