3rd April, 2015
Isa 52:13-53:12; Ps 31:1-25; Heb 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
Today, Good Friday, we do well to contemplate how the action of God in Christ, in his suffering and death on the cross, accomplishes the forgiveness of our sins. This is Jesus making all things new, in a work that no one else can ever accomplish. ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ is a question echoed in the Gospel. Today we have the answer. Indeed, no one but God can forgive our sins.
There’s no question that Jesus suffered and died. Mary suffered, cried, and had her heart broken by grief. Good Friday does not deny any of that. Those things were real in the crucifixion of Jesus and they are real in our own lives. We cannot help but look at the many crosses of our lives and world, and see sin and brokenness, suffering, sorrow, tears, loss, and death.
Those things, however, can keep us from seeing why this day is called Good Friday. For Jesus, the focus is not on suffering and death. It is on love. That’s why Jesus can give himself to the cross. Death is not the end. Jesus trusts the Father’s love.
Pilate said to the people 'Behold the man!' The same is said to us this afternoon: ‘Behold the man!’ But, we ask, who exactly is this man? Jesus tells us. He says 'I am He’. These words Jesus has used are the very words used by God himself, to identify himself to Moses: literally 'I am who am.'
The true magnitude of the events we witness today is, that it is the Eternal Word of God, in our flesh, who is hanging on the cross. From the very beginning of his Gospel, St John has made that clear: 'The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us and we saw his glory, the glory that is his, as the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.' It is this Word who hangs in bodily death before us. It is his glory and his truth that we can now begin to see! That is our joy, our victory, and our redemption!
Today we approach the cross to venerate the broken body of Jesus. It is a moment of great intimacy for each of us, as we give a sign, a gesture of our deep love for the Lord. Yet it is also a moment we are glad to share with one another, for he is the love we share, the one who holds us together in his family of the Church. He loves each one of us. He shows us his unfailing love, beyond doubt, upon the cross. And we venerate him with great love in return.
As you approach the cross this afternoon, have in mind the lovely words we heard, just a little while ago, from the Letter to the Hebrews. They describe exactly what we are to do:
‘Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.’ (Hebrews 4.16) The death of Christ restores in us the gift of divine love.
Yesterday we reflected on the gift of faith as we celebrated the institution of the Mass. Today we see how, through the death of Christ, love is again infused into our souls by the Holy Spirit, the love which is of God, the love by which we love God above all things and our neighbours, too, as ourselves, for God’s sake.
The cross, then, in its power of restoring love, is the wellspring of our life in Christ.
Today we embrace that cross; we cling to it, in love and in true devotion. Amen.
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson