Good Friday: Reflections and Homilies
Homily: The Wood of the Cross - Fr. Michael Tate
Countless millions will be gathering at 3.00 pm wherever they are throughout the World this Good Friday afternoon. Strange term, ‘Good Friday’.
Whether the Pope at the Colosseum or this small parish, whether the underground church in China or the martyred church in the Sudan, or Pakistan, or Nigeria, we all come to venerate ‘the Wood of the Cross’ on this oddly named ‘Good Friday’.
The Wood of the Cross – heavy planks of wood on which the squad of Roman soldiers hammered in the nails which fastened the body of Jesus to those cross-beams of timber:
The upright grounded in the earth, but reaching heavenwards. Might something ‘good’ come of that?
The horizontal stretched out to east and to west. Might something ‘good’ come of that?
The Wood of the Cross: at the top – a plaque; at the bottom – the splattering of blood and water from the side of Jesus.
At the top – a plaque bearing an inscription.
Pilate, who had spat out the contemptuous question ‘What is Truth?’, told the truth in that inscription on the plaque and told it in three languages – Hebrew, Latin, Greek – so that every passerby would know it:
‘Jesus Nazarene King of the Jews’
That is the Truth! But only one dimension of the truth.
Certainly, Jesus was the hoped-for messiah of God’s rule over his chosen people – hence, ‘King of the Jews’. But even more, for you and for me,
He is Sovereign over all human beings, whatever the nation or tribe or people
He is Lord of the whole universe – to the farthest constellation. He is Lord of the cosmos,
this King, this Sovereign, this Lord,
had his body racked on the upright beam of wood. And because it was His body, it joined heaven and earth. And that makes this Friday, ‘Good Friday’.
This King, this Sovereign, this Lord,
had His arms stretched out on the horizontal beam of wood. And because they were His arms they stretched out to embrace the whole of humankind, the whole of creation.
And that makes this Friday, ‘Good Friday’.
And at the foot of those beams of wood? ‘One of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance and immediately there came out blood and water.’
Water and blood splattered the foot of the Cross.
Water and blood: signs accompanying birth.
And who was at the foot of the Cross?
‘Mary, the mother of Jesus, some other women and the disciple whom Jesus loved.’
They were born again as a new family, a new community of whom we are the descendants, the successors.
We are simply the latest privileged generations of the nearly two thousand year old family which had its origins at the foot of the cross on that Friday.
That is what makes this Friday, ‘Good Friday’.
We will never understand fully the mystery of our Saviour entering so utterly into the suffering and alienation of the world.
We may never under-stand fully,
but we can fully stand under the Cross.
You and I will take our stand at the foot of the Cross this ‘Good Friday’.
‘Hail, Wood of the Cross, bearer of the Saviour of the world.’
‘Hail, Wood of the Cross, at whose foot was born the new community of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene.’
We hail and venerate you on this Friday, this Good Friday, indeed,this Best Friday.
Homily - Richard Leonard SJ
Given that we have just heard the greatest story ever told, let us reflect on three great questions in John’s Passion:
‘Who are you looking for?’
‘What charge do you bring against this man?’
‘Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?’
In the Passion the answers run:
‘Jesus of Nazareth’
‘King of the Jews’
‘I am not’.
We would not be here this afternoon if our answer to the first question was not the same as the soldiers. For vastly different reasons we also seek Jesus of Nazareth. Rather than arrest him, however, we’re here because his love has arrested us. Rather than mock the Kingdom he proclaimed, we are heirs to it, servants of his reign. Rather than condemn him to be crucified, we see in his death our path to freedom. ‘Who are we looking for?’ Jesus of Nazareth IS the one we seek.
The second question belongs to Pilate. On the basis of the charge that Jesus is a rival king to Caesar, he is condemned to death. All these years later we know Jesus still presides over a Kingdom of justice and peace. He remains a threat to anyone in our world, anyone here today, who stands against faith, hope and love. ‘What charge do you bring against this man?’ We stand accused of claiming his reign in our lives.
The third question is to Peter. Although Peter wanted to remain faithful to Jesus, fear got the better of him. Most of us can be empathetic to his plight. Faced with a choice between Jesus and death, how many of us would choose death? And because actions always speak louder than words, every time we compromise the goodness of God within us or work to undermine another person’s rights to dignity and life, we join Peter around that fire denying that we are a disciple of Jesus. ‘Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?’ If only we were more so.
The good news today is that apprehension, accusation and denial were not the last words in Jesus’ life. And because of Him they’re not the last words in our lives either.
No matter what we’ve done or what we’re doing, nothing can separate us from the love of God poured out in Jesus Christ the Lord. No matter what particular crosses we carried with us into the Church this afternoon, we believe that God’s commitment to us was such that he even went to suffering and death to reveal his saving love.
If we feel apprehensive, allow Christ to arrest us with his peace. If we stand accused of destructive behaviour, allow Christ to convert our hearts and change our lives. If we deny Christ by what we say or how we live, let’s decide today to be as faithful to him as he is to us.
I promise you that by doing this a surprising thing will happen. Even in the midst of carrying our own particular crosses we will feel the weight lifted as the one who loves us helps shoulder our burdens as well.
No wonder we call today ‘Good Friday’. What greater goodness could we know than that the Cross of Jesus reveals that our God, whether named or not, is our companion at every step of life’s journey?
Reflection - Dianne Bergant CSS
Today we meditate on Jesus our Passover. Silent like the paschal lamb that was sacrificed on behalf of the people, the suffering servant of the Lord allowed himself to be handed over to the slaughter. Though innocent, he took upon himself the guilt of the very ones who were victimising him. Through his suffering, Jesus justifies many; he is our true Passover. Jesus is not only the innocent victim, he is also the high priest who offers the passover sacrifice and leads us to the throne of God. He offers himself for us on the altar of the cross; he is our true Passover. He was then lifted up on the cross in triumph and exaltation. He is not a conquered king; he is a conquering king and as such he is our true Passover.
On Good Friday the cross gathers together all three images of Christ: suffering servant, high priest, conquering king. It is in the light of this cross that we see clearly how all three must be accepted at once, for we never contemplate one image without contemplating the others. In the midst of the passion, we see the victory; when we celebrate Easter, we do not forget the cross. As we venerate this cross, we gather together the memory of all of the living and the dead. With our petitions we bring to the cross all of the needs of the world. In this way, the cross becomes the true axis mundi, the centre of the universe, and Christ is revealed as the true Passover
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