30 March 2018Good Friday

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Good Friday
Good Friday - Cycle B - John 18:1-19:42

The New York Times reported that a two-time Olympic speed skater gave bone marrow to her brother. He suffered from aplastic anemia. It was doubtful the skater would be able to compete in the winter Olympic games because of her weakened condition. The woman dismissed those wanting to give her a gold medal for courage. She replied, "I would do this for anybody." Isn't that what the sacrifice on the Friday that history calls Good was all about? One student reported that he checked his dictionary for a definition of Calvary. It advised him: "Check LOVE." Can there be any other explanation? When theologian Karl Barth visited the University of Chicago, fawning students asked, "What is the most profound truth you learned in your studies?" He replied, "Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so." The third century preacher Theodoret summed the case up well. "The crucifixion is a new and strange method of healing. The doctor suffered the cost, and the sick received the healing."

He came to pay a debt, we are advised, that He didn't owe because we owed a debt we couldn't pay. Is there any mother's son or daughter among us who even lightly reflects on the happenings of the Friday of Holy Week and who still feels he or she is unlovable or, better, unloved? The actions of Jesus the Nazarene echo the words of the athlete who opened the homily: "I would do this for anyone." As a matter of historical fact, the Christ did precisely that. Is there any wonder that Good Friday along with Easter is the oldest feast in the Church?

In 1994, Raymond Brown published The Death of the Messiah. It was fifty plus dollars but worth every farthing. (But should that sum be too rich for your blood, research Fr Brown's 1986 A Crucified Christ.) Brown advises that we should make a serious attempt to identify with one of the characters in the Passion story. The plaudits of Palm Sunday might seduce us into believing that we surely would have been one of the many who shouted their Hosannas to the Man on the donkey. We would have stood by Him. But are we being much too kind to ourselves once again?

Might we have not been among the disciples who hastily ran away from the Christ as the police closed in? Or, worse, might you and I have been the poor cowardly Peter who denied ever having set eyes upon the Accused? Or, worst of all, might we have been Judas who sold Him out for beer money? Or take Governor Pilate. Would we have been the Pilate in John's Gospel? He wanted most of all to make no judgment and to put the whole affair in the back of his file cabinet? Or would we have been St Matthew's Pilate? Matthew describes the Roman bureaucrat as attempting to wash his hands of the inevitable murder most foul of the Christ? In 1990, the Sulpician Brown gave an eloquent lecture in New York. I was present. Every time I had heard him speak, his talk ended with his typically large audience rising to its feet in applause. The hall was filled with such people. They put their hands together strenuously for Brown. The maestro blushed. He spoke of the Teacher's appearance before Pilate as told in John's account.

Since the Church would have us look at John's Passion today, we might want to check out Doctor Brown's thoughts. The Christ before the governor you must notice is no victim. He stands erect and does not flinch before the civil servant. One must say of Him what Shakespeare said of Lear, "Ay, every inch a king." It is the Master who controls the questions of the would-be prosecutor. In Brown's apt words, the rendezvous of these two becomes "the trial of Pontius Pilate before Jesus. John's Gospel turns every scene into a triumph for the accused." Have you found the answer to Pilate's "What is truth?" If no, consider the answer in John 14:6. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus claimed to be the truth and proved it by rising from the dead. Had he met Christ, Socrates, who sought truth, would have signed on. We must fall on our knees as we contemplate the crucifixion. But even on our knees, we will not understand. Yet, fret not. The seventeenth century genius John Milton saluted Jesus's birth in a famous ode titled "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity." When, however, he attempted to do something similar with Christ's death, he threw up his hands and put down his pen. An explanation for such a sacrifice was beyond even his talents. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Good Friday
Good Friday The Veneration Liturgy: Give it to Jesus

During the wonderful Lenten season this year, we priests heard about 12 to 15 hours of confessions each. I can only speak for myself here, but time and time again I heard people telling me about their hurt. Some have been hurt terribly by the sins of others, particularly those whom they have loved. Others hurt due to the results of sin in the world and suffer sickness. But most of us hurt because of what we have done to ourselves. Our own sins have come back to haunt us, even if they were committed decades ago. Maybe it is an abortion that can not be buried in the past. Maybe we behaved like animals when we were in college or in the military. Maybe it is the pain of knowing that a person is still hurting from our actions. We are all hurting in some way or other. We are human. We are imperfect. We are sinned against. We sin.

What we need to do is take all of this pain, be it imposed on us or imposed by us, take the pain and give it all to Jesus on the Cross. That is why he is there. He died for our sins. He died so we can conquer that addiction, that temper, that buried memory. Give it all to Jesus. He died on the cross so we can live. Give it all to Jesus. Way back in 1922, Helen H. Lemmel wrote these lyrics:
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion?
For more than conquerors we are!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
His Word shall not fail you?He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Many, many times I have shared with you the three key daily meditations that will allow God's love to heal us and flow through us. Today, meditate on these three keys as you come up and venerate the cross. First: God loves you and me unconditionally. He did not mount the cross because he has expectations of us. He loves us for who we are. He loves us like a mother and father love their infant newborn, only infinitely more. So I, we, need to recognize our worth. We are loved by God for whom we are.

Second, God forgives me. That's why He's on the cross in the first place, for the forgiveness of sins. God forgives me. We need to forgive ourselves. And third: God is with me. There is no reason for any of us to think that we have to handle the difficulties of our lives alone. He is with us. All we need to do is recognize His Presence. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. He has been crucified because He loves each of us so very, very much.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Good Friday

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Good Friday

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Good Friday

In tIn the Catholic Church we regard Good Friday as a day of mourning. In our liturgy we recall Christ's arrest, his trial, the scourging and his journey to Golgotha. Then we wait by the Cross identifying with Christ's last agony and experiencing his death. As we do these things we also think about our own sorrows, especially those that may await us at the end of our life and in a salutary way we consider our own death. In the Catholic Church we regard Good Friday as a day of mourning. In many Protestant Churches the Cross above the altar will be empty on the basis that Christ is risen and is no longer on the Cross. But in the Catholic Church we nearly always show Christ at the very moment of his death as he hangs on the Cross. Sometimes these images are very realistic and can be even gruesome. But there is a reason for this. We know that it was Christ's giving of his life in sacrifice for our sins that brought about our salvation. We recognise that we benefit in the deepest way possible from Christ's last agony. And it is for this reason that we linger at the Cross meditating on the suffering that Jesus bore for our sake.

Very often when the priest goes to the bedside of a dying person he brings a Crucifix with him and after anointing them, as a last act, he offers the Cross to the dying person so that they can kiss it. This is a concrete sign by the one who is dying of uniting their own sufferings to those of Jesus. It can be an extraordinarily intimate and moving moment. Today in our liturgy we do the very same thing. In a few minutes we will be invited to come forward to venerate the Cross of Christ. We will kiss the body of Jesus as a profound act of devotion. This kiss will represent our recognition of the depth of the sufferings he bore and will acknowledge the debt he paid for our sins. We will do this reverently and in a profound spirit of sorrow. We will likely leave the Church today, not depressed, but certainly with a sense of loss and melancholy. Of course, we know that Christ won the victory and rose triumphantly from the dead; but we consider our joy in the resurrection not to be something for today. We choose to leave that until Easter Sunday. Ours is an emotional faith. Catholicism is an experiential religion. In its liturgy the Church engages with all our emotions and feelings and senses. This is why art and music are so important, this is why gesture is used so much; yes, words such as I am speaking to you now are important, but more important is what we do and feel and experience.

This is the reason why we go on pilgrimage, it is the reason we walk around the Church for the Stations of the Cross, it is the reason why we eat and drink in Holy Communion. It is the reason we wear religious badges and scapulars sometimes or have holy pictures and Crucifixes in our houses. It is why we sing hymns and why we put flowers on our altars. It is why we light candles and why we bless ourselves. Sometimes it is even in the things that we do not do that further levels of meaning are conveyed. For example, in this liturgy the priest omits the customary introduction and welcome and instead falls prostrate on the floor lying there for several minutes in prayer. The abruptness and unexpected nature of this helps us to realise the seriousness and the sorrowfulness of what is about to happen. Neither does this liturgy have a formal conclusion. The priest and the servers simply leave the altar in silence. Leaving without saying goodbye conveys something that mere words cannot provide. So, on this most holy day we mourn the loss of our Divine Saviour, we pity him in his sufferings and we regret our role in his passion. We honour him in his death and we thank him for the sacrifice he has made for us. We resolve to live better lives so that we might be worthy of all that he achieved on our behalf. But we are quite unafraid of our emotions and our feelings because in them we realise that in a unique way they allow us to come as close as it is possible to get to our Blessed Saviour.

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