Homily (Reflection) for Good Friday (Celebration of the Lord’s Passion) (25th March, 2016) on the Passion and the celebration

Is 52:13–53:12;
Ps 30:2.6.12-13.15-17.25. (R. Lk 23:46);      
Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9;
Jn 18:1 – 19:42.

No sacraments are celebrated today or tomorrow. The altar should be completely bare, without cloths, candles, or cross. Today’s celebration consists of three parts: liturgy of the word, veneration of the cross, and Holy Communion[1].

Topic: Behold the man, your King, cf. Jn 19:5, 14.

In today’s Passion, we see Jesus’ arrest, His unjust trial, Peter’s denial, His condemnation, death on the cross between two thieves, the piercing of His side, and His burial. During Jesus’ trial, when Pilate brought Him out to the Jews to show that he did not see any offence against Him and said to them, “Here is the man!” the chief priests and the police shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And when he said to them, “Here is your King!” they cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!”

In the gospel according to Saint John, Jesus tells us that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn 10:10) yet they preferred a thief instead of the author of life, cf. Jn 18:40. Christ came and brought light to all in darkness of sin; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, cf. Is 9:2; Matt 4:16. Hence He tells us, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

The naked King ruling from a tree will be unveiled in this celebration with the invitation, “This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world.” We are to either follow the chief priests to shout, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” or to adore Him humbly saying “Come, let us worship”.

Let us consider this story: After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.

Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She would have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched he small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live...[2]

Like this little bird, Jesus willingly accepted the most ignoble suffering and death for us to live. The Passion narrative tells us that the soldiers and the police “stepped back and fell to the ground” when Jesus told them that He was the one they were looking for. Nothing prevented Him from going away other than His love for us. He knew that the hour of our liberation had come. Hence He tells us, “No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father” (Jn 10:18).

May we never go back to the yoke of slavery from which Jesus had set us free, cf. Gal 5:1. Whoever follows Jesus will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. However, anyone who prefers darkness is condemned, cf. Jn 3: 18, 19.

Bible Reading: Jn 3:11-21; 1Pt 3:8-22.

Thought for today: Christ died to set us free.

Let us pray: Lord, may your Son’s suffering and death never be in vain for us – Amen.

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[1] The Sunday Missal: A new edition (1995). London: HarperColliinsReligious. p.258.
[2] Sagayanathan, A. (2009). Launching pad: Stories for Sunday homilies – A, B & C. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, pp. 271-272.

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