Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Homily from the Celebration of the Lord's Passion - Year A

Today we observe Good Friday.  It’s an ironic title for today.  I remember as a kid thinking, “What is good about today?”  It seems as though everything that happens today is the opposite of good.  Jesus is put on trial, convicted, tortured, crucified, dies and is buried.

Of course we know that Christ’s suffering and death saved us.  But do we understand how even the ugliness of His suffering and death was good?  Do we see Good Friday with eyes of faith?

Throughout the Gospel we just heard, we hear time and time again, various people making true, yet ironic, statements about Jesus.  But they fail to see the real truth of their statements because they do not see with eyes of faith.

Caiaphas, the high priest who leads the Sanhedrin’s trial against Jesus says that, “It was better that one man should die rather than the people.”  How ironic this statement is.  It is true and good that one man, Jesus, the Lamb of God, should offer His life in sacrifice rather than leaving the entire world to condemnation.  But Caiaphas cannot see the Lamb of God because he does not see with eyes of faith.
When Jesus tells Pontius Pilate that His mission is to testify to the truth, Pilate asks Him, “What is truth?’  How ironic this question is.  Because Pilate is looking Truth right in the face.  He is staring at the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  But Pilate cannot see the Truth because he does not see with eyes of faith.

Last Sunday, we heard the people say, as they were crying out for Jesus to be crucified, “His blood be upon us and on our children.”  How ironic this statement is.  Because the Blood of Jesus does fall upon the people and their children. 

However, as Pope Benedict points out in his new book Jesus of Nazareth – Part Two, the Blood of Christ “does not cry out for vengeance and punishment on the people; it brings reconciliation.  It is not poured out against anyone; it is poured out for many, for all.”  His Blood is upon us and our children; and it brings our salvation.  But the people do not see with eyes of faith. They think as men think, not as God thinks.

When Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, it was the time when families would procure for themselves a lamb that they would eat on the Passover that Friday.  And the days between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion were the same days when the families would inspect their lambs to make sure it was a lamb without blemish.  If the lamb was found without blemish, it would be slaughtered at twilight on Friday.

When Jesus, the Lamb of God is brought before Pontius Pilate, he is inspected by the Roman governor.  And Pilate, seeing no blemish in Jesus, makes the ironic declaration, “I find no guilt in him.”  And then, Jesus is slaughtered at the same moment the Passover lambs are being slaughtered in the temple.  But Pilate and the chief priests and the people cannot see the unblemished Lamb because they do not see with the eyes of faith.
In our own lives, we experience hardship and suffering and death.  And as difficult as it so often is, we must look upon suffering with eyes of faith.  If we believe in what the Cross of Jesus did for us, then we must also accept that taking up our own crosses means the same thing.

For the Cross of Christ and our daily crosses that follow His are redemptive – they offer salvation.  Suffering as grave as the terrible events in Japan is redemptive when it moves the entire world to compassion.  And suffering as common as cleaning up the house is redemptive when it is done with love.

Suffering can strengthen us, which is ironic, because often in our suffering we feel weak.  Suffering can draw us closer to God, which is ironic, because often in our suffering we feel far from God.  And suffering can be redemptive, which is ironic, because often in our suffering we feel condemned.

Suffering is redemptive when it is joined to the suffering of Christ and offered up to the Father.  Then, we can see even the ugliness of suffering with eyes of faith.  Then, suffering can take on new, even ironic, meaning.  Then, the “Fridays” of our suffering can become good.

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