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Days after the funeral of my father, one parishioner met another parishioner and told him: “Look at this priest, he seems very emotionally strong. He was able to confront his father’s death with courage and calmness. It was as if he can readily accept any tragedy.” Hearing his words, I said to myself: what can be farther from the truth?” That first tragic loss in my small nuclear family devastated me not only then but for many months following.

How does a priest grieve? Most priests grieve privately, without any public spectacle of his sadness and pain. People look up to us for guidance and direction and what would they think when they see us crying or sullen? When my sister broke the news to me, I knelt before my couch and buried my face on the seat, shouting and crying in such a way that none of my convent staff could hear.

As I shuttled forth everyday between the parish and our house, I cried only when I was in the car, with only the driver witnessing my private sorrow. Once I reached the house, I put on the face of a master host, swapping stories, entertaining people, thanking them for coming to the wake. When I reached the parish, I was the regular pastor – planning, deciding, managing our church and our school. Remember, it was Holy Week of last year and all the preparations and celebrations needed vied for attention.

Very early on the day of my father’s funeral, I woke up to say goodbye, to pray and to cry for the last time, again, with nobody else awake to see me. Thus I was already totally composed during the Mass and other ceremonies. That was how I grieved. I hid it all, so successfully. That is how a priest grieves – in private.

Today, we have no room for private grief. This is the saddest day of the year, the day when the Son of God died on the Cross for our salvation. The movie, the Passion of the Christ, beautifully illustrates the sadness of this day when after breathing Jesus’ last, a drop of water – symbolizing a tear – dropped from heaven. God himself was devastated at the loss of his Only Son. The entire creation was enveloped in the darkness of loss for the light was snuffed out. Tragedy broke out in heaven and earth. With every tragedy comes sadness, because tragedy, we believe, does not bring any good.


Yesterday, a young man dropped for a visit. Knowing that his father accidentally fell from a tree, head first and automatically unconscious, I asked how his father was doing in the hospital. His voice cracked and trembled for he came to tell me that his father just died that morning. He was visibly distressed and cried out his laments. How can he continue his studies when he, the eldest child, must now work for his mother and siblings? How can he, an active altar server, continue to serve when work will surely separate him from his church duties? Why should this responsibility be expected of such a person as a high school student? With his father’s death, so many plans and dreams are altered or shattered.

The Cross is a tragedy too. But the Cross is different. The Cross is a tragedy that turned out to be a blessing. The Cross was a punishment that brought about freedom. The Cross was a curse that defeated evil and unleashed the power of goodness residing in an unexpected source.

Walter Burghardt suggests that we look at the Cross in 3 ways. First, the Cross is life. The death of Jesus did not end in the tomb but opened the way to life. John 3:16 emphatically spells out the Christian conviction that the sending of the Son of God ushered in “life eternal.” And eternal life is life today, life tomorrow, life forever. Eternal life is new life, true life, richer life. Jesus’ death made all this possible. That is why the Cross is what we use to bless ourselves, other people and things around us. The Cross is a blessing because it is life-giving.

Second, the Cross is love. The Cross did not give life just because Jesus died there. It was because Jesus died out of love that made the Cross a different experience for Jesus and for us. God loved us so much that we can imagine him climbing the Cross himself if nobody would force him there. He was ready to die and willing to die because he loved. Again, St. Paul tells his Galatians that Jesus “gave himself up for me.” For the world, yes…but most importantly for me! For you!

Third, the Cross is joy. What else follows? Life, full and eternal, and love, personal and sacrificial, combined together brings true and lasting happiness. The person who is truly happy is the one who knows how to suffer. How can you be truly happy if all you knew was happiness, if you never journeyed through some sad episodes in life. A person needs to undergo difficulties and trials so that his life will attain maturity and so that he can experience not only the sense of relief but the sense of victory in conquering life’s travails.

Jesus died on the Cross not a sad man but a joyful man knowing that his life was poured out for others. That joy infects us as we open our hearts to his Cross.

We will venerate the Cross and remember, we will proclaim that the Cross of Jesus is good, the highest good. St. Paul resolved not to boast of anything but of the Cross of Jesus.

But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14).

The Cross is life, love and joy. That is the cross of Jesus.


There is another cross in our church today. Good Friday points to another Cross we must confront. It’s our own Cross. Jesus’ Cross was not exclusively his own. It was his brother’s cross as well. Yes, we stand before the Cross knowing that we too, have our own crosses to endure.

How do we understand sufferings, problems and troubles in our lives? The mystery of suffering and pain deepens the indifference and hatred in the heart of an unbeliever. But for a Christian, the mystery of Jesus’ Cross gives meaning to our personal cross and deepens, purifies our faith.

We may imagine a world bereft of sufferings. But can sufferings be totally eradicated? After solving one puzzle, another comes to replace it. We cannot delete the cross from life itself. But we can conquer the cross by transforming it in the same way that the Cross of Jesus was transformed in its meaning and value.

The secret is in lifting up our crosses to the Cross of the Savior, offering our crosses to him, uniting our crosses with his. In our pilgrimage to Europe, one of our companions fell down from the stairs in Spain and then fell down again on a slippery path at a gas station in France. For many days, she could only walk with difficulty and pain. When I asked her whether she regretted her decision to join our group, she protested: “No, father. I am very happy to be here. What inconvenience I feel now is nothing compared to the love of God I see around me. I join all my pains to that of Christ and the Blessed Mother. This is enough to lessen the pain. I know that God will heal me in due time.”

You will not triumph over your sufferings if you only resort to denial or remorse or fury. We need to confront whatever it is that threatens us and learn to say everyday: O Jesus, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day… – as recommended by the Apostleship of Prayer.

When we learn to carry our personal concerns in union with Jesus, then the problems becomes sacrifice, the trouble becomes a challenge that inspires us more. United to Jesus, then our crosses too, can become life, love and joy.

We are here to publicly proclaim our sadness that we have participated in the killing of God’s Son because of our sins. We are here to publicly claim that his death was not the end but the beginning of blessings on the whole world. We are here to unite our crosses with that of Jesus, who assures us of victory and hope.

This afternoon we are in grieving and we want the world to see it. But we are also peaceful for faith teaches us that this day is filled with hope. This day is filled with promise, if only we learn to say: I unite my all to you, dear Lord.