Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord
Readings: Is 52:13-53:12; Heb 4:14-16,5:7-9; Jn 18:1-19:42
A man of suffering, pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; by his stripes we were healed. Because he surrendered himself to death… he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses. Sometimes I wonder why God would have allowed His own Son to undergo such an extreme suffering, torture and death on the Cross. The celebration today is not a Mass but a commemoration of the Passion of the Lord leading to his Death on the Cross. As we gather around the mystery of the Cross on which Jesus Christ died, we are confronted by that very question: “why did God allow Jesus to die on the Cross?” The answer to that question speaks volumes and is found in the Scriptures that we read – both the Old and the New Testament. A simple answer to the question is that God loved us so much that He would embrace the very humanity that rejected Him, disobeyed and denied any responsibility. God chose to enter humanity, to take on human flesh, so we can see, hear and experience the consequences of sin: a shock therapy to awaken our consciences. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans (5:8) that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Peter in his First Letter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” How could you and I return such a love for God? In a few moments we will come to venerate the Holy Cross.
Shortly we will hear the words, "This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world." And we will respond, "Come, let us worship." Then we will come forward to reverence the cross by kissing it. We normally bring in procession the cross veiled. We do that because we can get so used to Jesus on the cross; we can take him for granted. When the crucifix is presented before us and unveiled gradually, it should give a kind of shock to see what Jesus suffered for us. We come to adore Jesus on the Cross with the full weight of our sins. Pope John Paul II reminded us Catholics that part of the burden of sins is our human solidarity – the original sin is shared by all humanity; human sinfulness is shared by all, whether we admit it or not.
On this Good Friday, Jesus calls us to repentance based on solidarity with the sins of humanity and conversion from our own personal sins. Today we come to the cross burdened with our sins of the past, but even more with the present sins of our society. We live in a consumer society which can so easily make us blind to social sin. Social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity each individual's sin against a neighbor in some way affects other people. That is an offense against God because it is an offense against one’s neighbor. When rights and duties of individual citizens are infringed upon, that too is social sin and we all carry the burden of guilt, challenging us to speak up against any structures of sin in church and in society. However, social sin must never lead us to ignore or to forget our own personal sins. Jesus Christ shed his last drop of blood for you and I. At this celebration, we are moved and deeply challenged by God’s profound love that has no limits. We see ourselves in the drama that unfolds before us; a drama of God’s love for us, and yet our denial, betrayal, rejection and even our participation in the Crucifixion of his Son. The famous Negro Spiritual helps us to reflect on our role in that drama. "Were you there when they crucified my Lord; Were you there when they nailed Him to the Cross?" Yes, you were; yes you were there participating in my crucifixion. “Lord, have mercy on us and move us to repentance. In humble gratitude we ask for your forgiveness as we kiss your body crushed for our sins and thank you. Lord Jesus, you died for me. I don’t know how to thank You. Help me to live for You for the rest of my life. Amen. Amen”
©2014 John S. Mbinda