Homily for April 22, Good Friday
At last, the time that Jesus referred to as “His hour” has come. The lengthy Gospel reading takes us step by painful step from the Garden of Gethsemane to Calvary and to the tomb. Along the way, Jesus loses His human dignity, most of His friends and followers, and His life.
He had warned his apostles about it over and over again, but they did not understand – except the one time that Peter seemed to get the point, in which case he took it upon himself to contradict the Son of God, and received one of the most severe reprimands in all the Gospels. Yes, from our viewpoint it’s easy for us to judge them for being scared and confused, and running away, but at the time, the whole idea of the Messiah’s death being orchestrated by His own people was totally contrary to what they expected.
It was only after the resurrection that the Apostles began to understand how the Lord’s suffering and death made sense and was foretold in the Old Testament. The first reading today is one of the clearest prophecies about the Messiah’s role as the “Suffering Servant of God”. The second reading, from the letter to the Hebrews, shows how this prophecy – among others -had been understood as applying to Jesus as a key for understanding the events of Good Friday.
By now, we are all very familiar with the message: Jesus Christ took our sins, and the punishment due for them, upon Himself, so that we could be forgiven. His death gives us life. His obedience to the Father’s Will makes up for our disobedience. The sad and agonizing episode of His trial and execution is actually His moment of triumph and victory that opens to us the baptismal font, the door of the confessional, and the gate of heaven.
How often we forget the price that was paid for our salvation! We see and even wear crucifixes so often, we can get used to seeing them, and our sensitivity to the Lord’s suffering becomes dulled. Images of the Lord’s cross can become mere decoration. As a result, we often commit sin casually, in thought, word and deed. In some cases, we don’t make time for prayer, but we have time for TV and the Internet. Other times we may give in to our natural tendencies to speak ill of others, to be selfish in our use of time or resources, and to grow lax in our observance of the commandments. And all the while, we are adding to the weight of the cross, hammering in the nails, pushing down the crown of thorns.
May our contemplation of the Lord’s passion and death today renew in us a true sense of sorrow for our failings, and of gratitude for what Jesus suffered to give us peace and everlasting life. When we look at the crucifix that see in church, that we may have around our homes, or that we may wear, let us remember the suffering of our Lord and also the great, great love that it represents. May we have a greater revulsion for sin than ever before and a greater love for and trust in God, Who sympathizes with our weakness and Who loves us so much that He will go to any lengths to help us and save us. “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for a timely help.”