ET2 GF – 29 Mar 2024

Good Friday - Solemn Commemoration of the Lord's Passion

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey


MP3 media (SCLP)

Fr Richard Healey explored the beautiful parallels between person-centred therapy and our Christian faith. I shared how the core aspects of this therapeutic approach—unconditional positive regard, empathy, and congruence—reflect the way Jesus interacts with us, the ultimate counsellor. As we delved into the profound symbolism of the cross on Good Friday, we were reminded of Christ’s immense love and the transformative power of His sacrifice. It was a moment to reflect on how we, too, can embody these therapeutic qualities in our relationships, drawing closer to the example set by Jesus.

(00:00:00) – When I was doing my studies to be a counsellor, we went through a whole range of of different theories, from cognitive behavioural therapy to acceptance and commitment therapy. But one of the the forms of therapy that I kind of most connected with, and a lot of it was because of the deep sense of Christian spirituality that seemed to be embedded within. It was person centred therapy by Carl Rogers. He looks at three different kind of elements that are crucial for establishing that person centred therapy. The first is to have an unconditional positive regard from the therapist to the client. It’s a beautiful concept, a beautiful idea that unconditional positive regard. The second is what I would call a sense of compassionate congruence. To have that sense of being able to connect so completely and perfectly with the person that is there before you, just to be able to, to really understand what is happening within their life. And the third is to have a profound empathy with and for that person. And in so many ways, when I look at the cross, I imagine that that is precisely what is happening in my life, that Jesus is there as the perfect therapist, the perfect counsellor, seeing all of my needs, all of my dysfunction, all the ways that I’ve stuffed things up and got it wrong.

(00:01:56) – But he has that unconditional positive regard for me. He sees me broken and flawed, but he sees the reality of the way he created me. The love that is buried sometimes. Sometimes it comes to the surface, but often it’s quite hidden beneath the wounds, beneath all of the flaws that life is thrown in our direction. But he’s able to hold all that because this, the book of Hebrews says today he has been through everything that we have experienced. So he’s had that perfect sense of congruence. He’s been able to appreciate every element, every temptation, every flaw, every human emotion he’s experienced. And in the midst of that, he’s able to identify with us with that perfect empathy. So often when we imagine Jesus on the cross, it can become a very abstract and distant thing. And the gift of this ceremony, the gift of this commemoration of the Lord’s passion, is that we get to be up close and personal with the Lord. We get to experience the power of the cross.

(00:03:21) – When I think of the cross, there are a number of images that also come to mind. And I brought two of them with me, the two that are there in my prayer space back at the presbytery. The first is a cross that a friend of mine painted. It’s not particularly artistic. It was one of the first icons that Justin ever painted. But I love that there is a sort of a tenderness that is there with Jesus that is there on the cross. There’s a rough kind of edge around him, this, this desire that is, is there for him to embrace and to reach out. This, this gift of his love that knows no bounds. The love that is continuing to be poured out for us and upon us. The second is from the chapel of the visitation in the small city of Paray-le-Monial in France. It’s a place I’ve been to a number of times now. And this is the way that Saint Margaret Mary, who received that vision of the Sacred Heart, and it captures such a beautiful sense of Jesus there just reaching out.

(00:04:40) – And the light that emanates from his heart and from the centre of his very being, reaching out to all humanity. And when I had this framed, I. I put the words that Margaret Mary heard the Lord say to her, behold the heart of Jesus that has loved us so much. And it’s precisely on the cross that we get to see and experience that it’s precisely on the cross that we know that his love is going to be there for us. So often we doubt that. So often we imagine that my sins are more powerful than his love. But that is such a heresy. His love is always greater. His love is always stronger. His love is always going to reach through. No matter what we’ve done, no matter what we’ve experienced, no matter what ways we’ve turned away from him, his love is always reaching into us. And that power of that love knows no bounds. The power of that love is always able to bring healing and life. So over the course of this Good Friday, let’s really trust in that.

(00:06:03) – Let’s trust that no matter where we find ourselves on life’s journey, no matter what people we bring on our hearts today, members of our family, friends that we have known, people who have hurt us, people that have rejected us, people that aren’t here as part of our Catholic community anymore. Let’s bring them all into this place where we can say, behold the heart of him who loved us so much, the heart of Jesus, who continues to love us. And we heard in our first reading the beautiful reminder that it’s through his wounds that we are healed through the wound in his heart, the wound in his hands, the wound in his feet, the wound on his side, the wound and the depths of who Jesus is. That we are healed, but we find life, that we find freedom. So let’s indeed allow the God of grace to invite us more deeply into his freedom and into his peace as we embrace the cross and let his love hold us and sustain us today.

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