Good Friday 18th April, 2014
Isa 52:13-53:12; Ps 31:1-25; Heb 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
Today we confront a reality that is inescapable. Today we meet the fundamental symbol of our Christian faith - the cross. And the cross brings us face to face with the reality of suffering, of sin and of death. In our liturgy today we revisit the darkest moments of the Passion, and we re-live the pain, the mental anguish, the abandonment of Jesus. As we ponder today the cross of Jesus, we are commemorating Christ’s suffering, his intense pain at all levels of His being – His prolonged mental, physical, emotional and above all spiritual anguish – endured out of love for our sakes.
Throughout the Passion and death of Jesus, Saint John constantly reminds us that we are witnessing the fulfilment of Scripture. In the face of Jesus enduring a shameful and scandalous death, John is at pains to demonstrate that this is actually consistent with the message of the Hebrew Scriptures, and that it was foreshadowed (if not predicted) in the ancient writings of the Chosen People. Everything takes place according to the plan which God long ago established. This is especially so, since John (presumably the last of the Gospels to be completed) has had the longest time to reflect theologically on Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It is our belief that Jesus, the Son of God, suffered and died, not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Out of love for us he lays down his life. No one takes my life from me, says Jesus, I lay it down of my own free will. We gather, as Mary and the apostle John gathered at the foot of the Cross. We remember that God, in Christ, endured a painful death, for you and for me, out of love, so that we might have life.
We also come together for another reason today. That is to take upon ourselves the true significance and reality of Jesus' death in our own lives. Jesus died on the Cross once for all. We come together today as the Church, as God's people, to acknowledge this truth, and it is hugely significant that we do so. Traditionally Catholics have always come together on Good Friday in unusually large numbers to celebrate the liturgy. Each of us is drawn by the deep resonance that the Cross of Jesus has in our lives, and responding to the deep attraction that this Suffering Servant exercises over our hearts. The Cross often catches us unawares, and comes in many guises in your life and mine. Taken up with our own agenda, the Cross seems to be an unwelcome intrusion into our cosy world, as we experience the loss of the three things we all hold dear, namely our convenience, our comfort and our control; those temporary supports that at some point or other we all have to let go.
However, Christ's journey of suffering, death and resurrection is the pattern for our own human journey too. If in our own lives we acknowledge the call to die and to rise through our endeavour to live according to the mind and the heart of Jesus; if we do this, not only will we rise to new hope and new life in this life, we will also rise to enjoy it more fully in the next. As Jesus said, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson