Homily: Good Friday, 2013


29TH March, 2013

Today, we could rightly say to ourselves that we have been to Calvary. However, all this does not happen automatically, just because we have taken part in this liturgy. It is a question of accepting the meaning of the mystery, and this happens with faith.

In today’s gospel there is none of the brokenness of Gethsemane and the cry of despair we find in St Mark’s account. Only the Gospel of St John presents Jesus as assured and confident throughout His ordeal. St John’s Gospel is seen to be the eye witness account of these proceedings, and Jesus is seen as an icon of faith throughout the events of his passion and death.

St John's Gospel locates these events in five places. The first is Gethsemane, where Jesus is arrested; after this he is taken to the house of Annas, where the religious trial begins and Peter denies Jesus before the high priest's servants. The third scene is the praetorium where Jesus is tried by the Roman procurator: St John gives an extensive account of this trial, highlighting the true character of Christ's kingship and his rejection by the Jews, who call for his crucifixion. He then goes on to describe the events which occur after the procurator's unjust sentence; this scene centers on Calvary. St John then reports the burial of our Lord near Calvary, in the unused tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea.

These biblical descriptions do not focus on the brutality and violence of the cross. For some reason we have allowed that to become the focus of the crucifixion. It is there, to be sure, but that is not where scripture places the focus. St. John offers no graphic details. He simply states the facts. For Jesus the focus is not on suffering and death. It is on love. That’s why Jesus can give himself to the cross. He doesn’t look at the cross, he sees through it.

There’s no question that Jesus suffered and died. Mary suffered 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. The crucified love of Jesus does more than join us in our sufferings and dying. It carries us through them. God’s love defeats sin and death, every time!

How do we react to Jesus’ suffering for us? Jesus was executed because he refused to stop loving; he refused to stop challenging the world's status quo. His refusal to limit his love;  his act of sacrifice, leads directly to the triumph of the cross. His love is absolutely free of selfishness and self-centeredness. Christ's cross redeems the world because it is the love that shines in the darkness, and that darkness cannot overcome the light of Christ’s great and loving sacrifice for each and every one of us on Calvary.