Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA
Today’s readings are some of the richest and most profound of the entire year. Let’s explore some quotes together.
“Even as many were amazed at him — so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man — so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless…”
Jesus did not win over the world through force. He did not persuade very many people to follow him during his lifetime. He had little power, little fame, and no wealth. And yet, he silenced kings, because they could not imagine who Jesus was and what he would do. They could not conceive of a God with infinite power giving up that power to become a human being, and then submitting to being beaten, scorned, and killed. Such a thing does not make sense according to worldly logic, and yet that is what Jesus did. We can only stand in amazement.
“Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.”
Jesus did not suffer for himself. He did not suffer just to suffer. He came down from heaven, taking upon himself the weakness of humanity, in order to take upon himself our sufferings, our failures, our sins. It is because he suffered that we are healed.
“When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.”
We know of times when an innocent person is condemned to jail or death, and it is always tragic. But have we ever had anyone take our place? Can we imagine what it would be like to commit a crime and have someone else go to jail – or to death – in our place. This is what Jesus did.
From the Letter to the Hebrews:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”
What was the goal? What was the purpose? Why would Jesus suffer in our place if he did not have to? This is the impossible love of God. God wants to be with us in every way at every moment. In order to prove that he will never abandon us, in order to show that he knows what it is like to be human, Jesus chose to go through suffering and death himself. Now, how can we ever look to Heaven and think that God does not care about us? He wounds are our wounds. His suffering is our suffering.
From the Gospel:
“Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?’”
Jesus knew what he came to Earth to do. He did not shy away from it, motivated by his infinite love for us. He did not fight against it. He went to it willingly. For us.
“When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, ‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’”
Those who killed Jesus had to reason to do so. They were convicted by his holiness, by his challenge to their corruption and sin. They hated him for what he was and what he represented. When our sins are challenged, we will either be contrite and convert, or we will turn to bitterness and hatred. May the grace of the suffering Lord always lead us to conversion.
“Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. […]’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’”
The truth is that we are caught between a world of sin and death that is passing away and a world of life and holiness that endures. And God loved us too much to abandon us to sin and death, so he came to Earth to draw us back to himself. Jesus is that truth.
“The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.”
The Jews hated the Romans. They hated being occupied by an invading force. But these Chief Priests are blinded by their hatred. They will give up every principle they hold dear just to get rid of Jesus. They were unwilling to accept that the all-powerful God would become powerless for them. They loved power more than truth, a temptation that lives in all of us.
“One soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”
It was from the side of Adam that his bride Eve was born. It was from the side of Christ that his bride the Church was born. The Church was born of water and blood, born from baptism and the Eucharist. Without water and blood there is no Church. My brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be left speechless at the self-abasement, self-sacrifice of our Lord and God. He gave up everything for us. So, now, will we give up everything for him?
¿Qué es lo más cariñoso que alguien ha hecho por ti? ¿Te ha comprado algo caro? ¿Se ha sentado contigo durante un momento difícil? ¿Ha dedicado tiempo, quizás semanas y semanas, por ti? Tal vez su cónyuge haya renunciado a su libertad o sus sueños por usted. Quizás tus padres hayan trabajado durante décadas para mantenerte. Quizás estos cónyuges y padres incluso hayan dedicado toda su vida por ti.
Pero aún más, ¿alguien ha ido a la cárcel por ti? ¿Alguna vez ha hecho algo tan malo que podría haber sido arrestado o condenado a muerte, pero alguien más interviene y asume la culpa? ¿Alguna vez ha tenido que mirar a alguien a punto de ser asesinado, sabiendo que debería ser usted quien enfrenta la muerte, no ellos?
Eso es lo que miramos cada vez que miramos la Cruz.
Toda la humanidad ha pecado contra Dios. Nos hemos alejado de nuestro Creador, nos hemos alejado de la fuente de la vida, y por eso hemos merecido la muerte. Dios no creó la muerte. No quiere que muramos. Pero cuando nos alejamos de nuestro dador de vida, decidimos morir. Y, sin embargo, es Jesús quien murió en su lugar. En lugar de abandonar a la humanidad a su pecaminosidad y condenación eterna, Jesús vino a la Tierra y es él quien murió por nuestros pecados.
Cuando Jesús sufrió y murió, asumió la responsabilidad de todo lo que hemos hecho mal. Todo lo que hemos hecho que nos alejó de Dios fue clavado en la Cruz con Jesús. Cada pecado nuestro lleva las claves a sus manos aún más profundo. Y, sin embargo, esto es lo que eligió hacer. Jesús quería venir a la Tierra y morir por nuestros pecados. Eso es lo mucho que nos ama.
Entonces, ¿cómo podemos agradecer a alguien que nos ama tanto? ¿Cómo podemos pagarle a un hombre inocente que murió para que pudiéramos vivir?
No podemos. No podemos pagar esa deuda. Es imposible. En cambio, solo podemos acudir a él en acción de gracias todos los días, en todos los sentidos. Podemos adorarlo en la Misa. Podemos amarlo en nuestro hermano. Podemos unirnos a él en oración. ¿Qué es lo más cariñoso que alguien ha hecho por ti? Dios mismo sufrió una muerte tortuosa en una cruz pensando específicamente en ti. ¿Cómo responderás?
Español (Original English)
What is the most loving thing someone has ever done for you? Have they bought you something expensive? Have they sat with you during a hard time? Have they given up time, maybe weeks and weeks of time, for you? Maybe your spouse has given up their freedom or their dreams for you. Maybe your parents have worked away for decades to provide for you. Maybe these spouses and parents have even dedicated their entire lives for you.
But even more, has someone ever gone to prison for you? Have you ever done something so bad that you could have been arrested or put to death, but someone else steps in and takes the blame? Have you ever had to look at someone about to be killed, knowing that you should be the one facing death, not them?
That is what we look at every time we look at the Cross. All of humanity has sinned against God. We have distanced ourselves from our Creator, we have taken ourselves away from the source of life, and so we have merited death. God did not create death. He does not want us to die. But when we walked away from our life-giver, we chose to die. And yet, it is Jesus who died instead. Rather than abandon humanity to its sinfulness and eternal condemnation, Jesus came to Earth and it is he who died for our sins.
When Jesus suffered and when Jesus died, he took responsibility for everything we have ever done wrong. Everything we have ever done that took us away from God got nailed to the Cross with Jesus. Every sin of ours drives the nails into his hands even deeper. And yet, this is what he chose to do. Jesus wanted to come to Earth and die for our sins. That is how much he loves us.
So how can we ever thank someone who loves us that much? How can we ever pay back an innocent man who died so that we could live?
We cannot. We cannot pay back that debt. It is impossible. Instead, we can only turn to him in thanksgiving every day, in every way. We can worship him in the Mass. We can love him in our brother. We can unite ourselves to him in prayer. What is the most loving thing anyone has ever done for you? God himself suffered a torturous death on a Cross with you specifically in mind. How will you respond?