Homily: Good Friday, 2016

Sacred Heart Cathedral
25th March, 2016

Isa 52:13-53:12; Heb 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42

The Passion and Death of Jesus as told by St. John, is more than an historical account; it is a telling of Good News. As we follow the Passion of St. John we begin to realize that the Victim here is not a victim. Something very different is going on here. It is not the ones in power that are in control. The religious authorities who shout for Jesus’ death are frightened and agitated; Pilate the Governor of mighty Rome is fearful and anxious. The mob that demands his crucifixion is unsettled, screaming and shouting.

Only Jesus remains absolutely calm and completely in control in this telling of the Passion. When the soldiers come to arrest him, he speaks his Divine Name and they reel back and fall to the ground in the face of God’s Son. Jesus allows them to arrest him. Pilate is the agent of the most powerful man in the world, the Emperor of Rome. Jesus tells Pilate that the only reason he has power over him is that God allows it. Finally with silent dignity the sacrificial Lamb of God goes to his death – on his own initiative he tolerates his execution, only because he has chosen to do so.

Jesus, in this Gospel, accepts his death on his own terms; he willingly offers his life to God the Father. He will then bring about a new world and a new life that will be beyond the touch of suffering and beyond the power of death.

Jesus the Son of God is crucified. He endures the ignominious and horrible death reserved to the worst criminals. The course soldiers, numbed of any sensitivity by the cruel life that they have to live, get on with the business of their sad profession. Jesus clothes are disposed of.  There is the inscription to be placed on the Cross: “This is the King of the Jews”, an act of mockery but one which did not please all.

Jesus remains with his dignity.  In the midst of the humiliating mockery he forgives those who are its artisans.  He commends his spirit finally to the Father.

When the religious authorities saw Jesus dead on the cross, they thought they had destroyed this man who had challenged them. When Pilate ordered Jesus crucified he thought that he had rid himself of an unimportant troublemaker. Jesus was dead and they were rid of him. They thought might and power had taken care of the problem. Death was stronger than anyone. However, we know how ineffective their might and power was. We know how powerful the gentle love and humble kingship of Jesus was. Jesus was stronger than death.

In his own agony, next to Jesus on Calvary, the repentant thief sees that Jesus is not just innocent, but that he is truly the one who is entering the kingdom of his Father. He asks: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom! And the first one who follows Jesus into that kingdom is this convicted criminal. Sinners who repent are welcomed into Jesus Kingdom!

The liturgy of Good Friday allows us to bring all the damaged goods which have marked our lives, those of which we are aware and those we have suppressed or cannot speak of, to lay them at the feet of the crucified Lord, all making the same prayer: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.

On this day when a great silence descends over the church, we all identify with the repentant thief.

Whatever brings us, whatever burdens we bear, the arms of the Lord are stretched open, entreating us to come to him, to learn from him, and to find rest for our souls.