Homily: Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday

Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday
14th April, 2017

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

Today we stand before our crucified Lord, contemplating his death on the cross for each one of us, for us all. His death is a fact of history. The Gospel gives a clear account of what actually happened. It is not a story told for our encouragement. Yet this single event is of huge, unique significance. It opens for us a horizon onto eternity. It transforms our entire understanding of ourselves and of our destiny.

In St John’s account of the Passion, the phrase ‘this took place to fulfil the Scriptures' occurs four times. Clearly here is a greater purpose than the death of one man being worked out. That man, Jesus, himself said: 'For this was I born, and for this have I come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.' So here, in this event a great truth is being told.

Of course, the death of Jesus can only really be understood in the context of His life. From the very outset, Jesus was feared, opposed, and rejected. Mary and Joseph had to flee into Egypt to protect the infant Jesus from death at the hands of Herod’s soldiers. Once Jesus began His life of preaching and teaching, opposition to Him quickly grew, especially among some of the religious leaders of the day, though not so much among the ordinary people. And it is amazing that some of the most bitter opposition emerged because of His miracles of healing, especially if they took place on the Sabbath Day, when one interpretation of the religious law insisted that no work, not even good work, could be performed. It is hard, I think, to grasp how people can be so consumed by hatred, or fear, or ignorance that even miracles which set people free to live life fully and joyfully, can be ignored or interpreted so negatively.

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.' And, at these words, the people 'drew back and fell to the ground.' Why? Because the words Jesus has used are the very words used by God himself, to identify himself to Moses: literally 'I am who am.'

Already a new horizon is dawning because we know that in the person of Jesus we do not see a helpless victim but rather one who has willingly accepted the cross and embraced all its horror. In him we see love expressing itself unto the very end, faithful, paying the ultimate price, never wavering from love's embrace, never saying “That's enough, I will take no more!” In him we see the beauty of limitless love. In him we sense, even now, the love of the Father and the Holy Spirit embracing this broken form, our broken history, and drawing it into its new future, its true form, its fulfilment.

This day on which Christians remember the death of Jesus on the Cross, Good Friday, challenges all our reasons for everything we do, all the motivations we claim for any action. It is truly a time for self-examination; of deep reflection.

In the Solemn Prayers of today’s liturgy, which follow in a moment, we hear, spelt out for us, glimpses of how things are meant to be, the beauty of God's intentions. We pray that those intentions may be more clearly achieved: in the Church, among all Christians, among all people, in government, in all who suffer. These prayers reflect the light from the depth of the Cross of Christ soon to be held high for our adoration.

And in due time, we are invited to reverence the cross ourselves, to embrace our crucified Saviour. When we do so, we not only accept our broken state, but we reach out to him who alone can heal us, who alone has the life which can restore in us the goodness which is ours as truly beloved sons and daughters of our Eternal Father.

 Mary, at the foot of the cross you united yourself to your Son, when he said “Father, forgive them!” Help us overcome evil with good, not only on the world scene but also in our daily lives, within the walls of our homes. You shared his sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a very special way you cooperated by your obedience, faith, hope and charity in the work of the Saviour. May you inspire the men and women of our time with thoughts and deeds of peace and mercy; And of forgiveness!

Today then, with our mother Mary, let us hold steady before the cross of Christ, and embrace our dying Saviour. Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Saviour of the world. Come let us adore him.