Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Year B)
April 2, 2021
Readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 31; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19;42 https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/040221.cfm
St. Anselm Church – Sudbury, MA
It is a terrible chain of events. Of greed, betrayal, misunderstanding, paralyzing fear, of sorrow and tears, of violence and death. And yet through it light shines – the light of truth which is God’s love — which somehow prevails even when things go so terribly wrong.
The prophet Isaiah reveals much about this paradox of God’s triumph and truth amidst the ugliness of death and disgrace, a paradox revealed in the suffering servant.
This paradox is revealed in our brother, our savior, Jesus of Nazareth. Isaiah describes him as a “sapling,” a “shoot” growing up “from the parched earth”. Hope in the middle of despair…
This is a fragile image and a courageous one: a plant dared to grow in a place of little hope, a land nearly bereft of nourishment — foolish and spurned by the onlooker.
Friends, this is the way of our God – whose love for us is so great as to take that risk, to assume that vulnerability – by being born into human reality as Jesus — son of Mary, son of the carpenter, friend of James and John, of Mary Magdalene and Martha, Mary and Lazarus, of Peter and Andrew. Jesus — the expansive heart and broad smile of God’s healing and love… for the blind, the disturbed, the thirsty, the sinner, the sick, the sorrowful sister or brother.
And there was a cost in loving like this.
In battling ungodly forces to free his beloved from their afflictions, he risked becoming victim to the same:
“It was our infirmities he bore, our sufferings that he endured”
But could it be any other way?
Jesus is God’s complete and utter solidarity with us, even unto death. In total self-gift Jesus bridges the divine-human divide, the gap of alienation, created by sin and evil.
He is our rope bridge over turbulent waters, the arm stretched out to save, the one who would lay down his life for a friend.
This, sisters and brothers, isGod’s truth; it is who God is, and this cannot be contradicted…
Not by pain or suffering, by evil or sin, not even by death.
The famous spiritual asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
Were you there?
There are different ways we can answer this question.
Though none of us were there in history on that fateful day of our Lord’s suffering, by faith we do walk with Jesus.
We walk with him in our prayer,
we walk with him through the gospels over the whole liturgical year – from his birth, through his ministry and to his passion and death.
When we hear the story, when we receive it in faith, we enter the story.
We become a disciple, a companion, a friend of Jesus.
We even become friends with the likes of those he was close to:
Mary his mother,
John his best friend,
to Peter the sometimes blundering but sincere ring leader of the disciples,
or maybe some of those whose lives he retrieved from the brink through a liberating act or word.
And we can identify with these people—and their idiosyncracies, their insights, their misunderstandings, their faith, their needs.
So when we hear “were you there?” We can say Yes! I was, and I am!
As we entered the passion just now, with whom could you identify?
· A heartbroken Mary following her son to the cross?
· Or a conflicted and frightened Peter – who wanted to be faithful but could not.
· Or Caiphas the high priest, whose fear of upsetting the status quo of institutional power blinded him to Jesus’ goodness, to God’s truth revealed, a?
· Maybe Pilate, who had sympathy for Jesus, but not the courage to do what was just.
· Or are we the silent bystander? The one who looks on—maybe in horror– but does nothing.
· Or maybe we are the quiet but faithful John who stayed with Jesus right to the end.
· Perhaps we are like the rest of the disciples who were nowhere to be seen after Jesus’ arrest – for they had run away in fear, despair, confusion.
To ask whom we identify with is not a purely spiritual exercise. For it does not only have symbolic meaning for our present relationship with Jesus. No. His passion and death was a real-life situation then, and it is not unlike real-life situations today – where grave and heart-wrenching injustices are done, meanwhile a whole community or society knowingly participates, looks on, or runs away to escape it or ignore it. A genocide of the Uighars in China, a refugee crisis for Rohingas, the heartless separation of asylum-seeking parents from their children — just to name a few.
The paralysis to do what is right under such circumstances is understandable, for we are often weak and liable to fear. Yet, we know how Jesus’ story ended. Though staying true to his love for us, even when it brought upon him condemnation and execution, was the right thing to do, was true to God’s will. So death would not, could not, have the final word. For Jesus would rise.
May we find deep en-couragement — may our courage be increased — by this example of Jesus! So that in the face of the evils suffered by our brothers and sisters in our community, nation or world, we will not condone it, participate in it, stand silently by or run away in fear. No, may we show the love that Jesus showed, faithful in solidarity with the suffering, come what may.
Jesus is our model, more than that, Jesus is our COMPANION. From the moment of our baptism we were joined to him in his life, his death and his resurrection. What have we to fear?
Though Peter denied Christ three times before the crucifixion, in one of his earlier better moments he testified to this faith. When the road got tough and other disciples turned away, Jesus asked him whether he too would leave. He replied: “Lord, to whom would I go, for you have the words of everlasting life”. Peter got it! He understood that to be a disciple was to vulnerably dare to grow, to push up shoots, and put down roots, to be a sign of hope in the middle of a parched land, bereft of nourishment, to be courageous life amidst death. While apparently foolish to many, this is the way of God. We know this in Jesus who dared to live faithful to Love, come what may. With Him at our side, we dare to do the same.