Every year as we approach the Triduum, I am consistently drawn back to remember a very specific Good Friday from several years ago.
I was in college, and this year I was chosen to play the role of Mary in a Stations of the Cross reenactment. This reenactment was put on every Good Friday in combination with a 9-mile pilgrimage, from the heart of the city to a Marian Shrine on the edge of the Hill Country.
As the pilgrimage drew closer and closer, I prayed for the grace to do this role justice, a character I felt so humbled and unworthy to play. At the advice of a friend, I examined my heart for something to give the Lord on His way to Calvary, a specific sin or struggle to offer Him that He could crucify and bring to redemption.
The morning of the pilgrimage, I wrote down what I wanted to give Him and I stuck the tiny scrap of paper in my pocket, underneath the costume I had on. For the majority of my life, I had always wrestled with the question of identify and worth. Who am I? Who could love me? What am I worth, and where does that worth come from?
These were the questions that gnawed at me: in the back of my mind when falling asleep, while walking into the grocery store, sitting in class, scrolling on social media – they were always there, and they were unescapable.
And most of the time it was all too easy to give into the whispers of the world and the lies of the Enemy, to believe I was no one, I was not worthy of being loved, I had no worth and would never be enough.
So when I prayed about what I wanted, what I needed Jesus to crucify with Him on Good Friday, the answer was easy. I desperately needed my self-loathing, my doubt, my unbelief, to die with Him on the Cross. I wanted to believe what I heard so often in Scripture was true: that the Father himself loved me, that I was chosen, I was beautiful, I was loved.
The pilgrimage through the city and the Stations of the Cross began, and it was easy to forget about the slip of paper in my pocket as I saw the brutality Jesus was treated with, the way people driving by were mocking Him or just entirely indifferent. After hours of walking the physical discomfort began to take effect as well. I spent mile after mile walking a few feet behind the massive wooden Cross Jesus was carrying, seeing the way He was fatigued and exhausted under its weight.
During each station different characters had monologues they performed to allow deeper reflection on the road to Calvary. The fourth station, Jesus meets His mother, was my moment to be with Him. Your blood is my own, and I see it spilling out –Your blood, the blood I gave you, is on your crown, my little king. I stood so close to His face, looking into His eyes as He bore the crown of thorns and contempt of the world.
We journeyed on, walking for hours and praying through the Passion, slowly walking up into the hills, feeling like we were ascending our own Calvary. We arrived at the shrine where the scene of the Crucifixion was to take place. The soldiers threw the Cross to the ground and forced Jesus onto it. They acted out the nailing of His hands and feet, and then the Cross rose, to display My Lord hanging in agony, in love.
After Jesus breathes His last, the director of the Stations had been very clear during practice that she wanted emphasis on the scene Jesus is taken down from the Cross and laid in His mother’s arms. There was to be a long pause, to give the pilgrims ample time to meditate upon the Pieta image. So when they brought down Jesus from the Cross, they laid Him in my arms, and I cradled His head in anguish and despair.
I have always thought people were exaggerating when they speak of time slowing down, but in the moment I held the body of my dead Savior, I understood perfectly the reality of the expression. Time seemed to tick by in slow motion as I gazed upon my beloved Jesus, His face bloodied and beaten. My heart physically ached from the depth of sorrow it felt, this man whom I loved – tortured, killed.
That was when I heard it.
As I experienced this intimate moment of encounter with my crucified Lord, holding Him in His utter abandonment and brokenness, I heard in the depths of my heart a quiet voice. The voice not of Jesus, who was dead in my arms, but the voice of the Father, whispering the answer to that tiny piece of paper I carried in my pocket.
This is what you are worth.
The Lord speaks to us each individually and uniquely, this much I am sure. Because in that moment, I heard the truth I had so desperately desired to hear and to know, spoken in a way no one else could have received except for me.
This, my child, this is what you are worth. You are worth a bitter agony in prayer, a scourging beyond all human limitations of physical pain, you are worth embarrassment, mockery, contempt, a crown of thorns, complete humiliation, the weight of a cross, and the searing pain of crucifixion. You are worth My only Son dying the death of a criminal, alone, abandoned by all who loved Him.
This memory is one that will never be erased from my mind. As I held the devastated body of my Lord, lifeless and poured out for me, the Father revealed very tangibly the truth I believe we are all meant to hear:
This is what you are worth.
God has called this burnt-orange Longhorn heart into enemy territory to serve at Texas A&M University in College Station. Gig ’em! As a missionary, my greatest desire is to lead all women to the same freedom and joy that Jesus has brought me. You can probably find me at the nearest public library, making breakfast with my friends, or daydreaming about what I want to be the patron saint of