Mar 21, 2008

Homily for Good Friday - Service of the Lord's Passion: Given at Cronulla on March 21, 2008.

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).


The story of Christ’s passion and death can easily be considered as gruesome and depressing. Good Friday itself is often considered by many today to be a day the Church should do away with. Focusing on Jesus’ death is unpleasant. Some people think that the Church should only talk about a so-called “positive resurrection” message, but an absence of the events of death is dishonest and doesn’t make sense. Resurrection is only possible after death. You cannot rise from the dead unless you are first dead.


Despite the ever increasing concern by some that the Church is too focused on the cross, the crowds continue to come year in and year out on Good Friday. Cross has become a sign that there is something more.

Last night we celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and we had about 200 people here. Tomorrow night we will celebrate the Solemn Vigil of Christ’s Resurrection, and again, we expect that we will only see about 300 people for the Vigil, although we hope for more.

But today we pray and remember Christ who died. This morning we had about 550 people here for the Stations of the Cross. Crowds continue to come on Good Friday for this most ancient of prayer services.


But why did he suffer?

Why did Jesus die?

Why do we focus on death and the cross in our prayer?


It was February 1941, in the famous Nazi concentration Camp called Auschwitz, today in present-day Poland. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest, was put in the infamous death camp for helping Jews escape Nazi terrorism.

Months went by and in desperation, one of the prisoners escaped from the camp.  The camp rule was enforced. Ten people would be rounded up randomly and herded into a cell where they would die, as a warning against future escape attempts. Names were called. A Polish Jew Frandishek Gasovnachek was called. He cried, "Please spare me, I have a wife and 9 children!" Fr Maximilian stepped forward and said, "I will take his place." Kolbe was marched into the starvation cell with nine others where he lived until he was killed by lethal injection on August 14, 1941.

A few years ago, Gasovnachek, was shown telling his story at the age of 82. In his little white house there was a marble monument carefully tended with flowers. The inscription read: IN MEMORY OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE HE DIED IN MY PLACE. Every day Gasovnachek lived since 1941, he lived with the knowledge, "I live because someone died for me." Every year on August 14 he travels to Auschwitz in memory of Maximilian Kolbe.


People of the older generations have a better appreciation of someone sacrificing their life so that we can live in peace and prosperity. In the park just behind the church, across from the railway station, there is a war memorial and a list of those who gave their lives in defence of our country, our freedom and our interests.

We live in freedom and many of us in luxury today because of the heroic actions of those who have come before us. We should not forget those who died so that we can live in the Shire today.


Jesus Christ has come into the world. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we have the opportunity to enter into eternal paradise.

We read the stories in the bible and some people think they are just good, inspirational fables. But the scriptures reflect a very real relationship between God and humanity.


God did create the world, in whatever format that may have taken place.

God did create human beings as a reflection of himself.

Human beings have rejected God and the ways of love, peace, relationship and joy.

Human beings have used each other, have made each other suffer and we have become further and further away from God.


At different moments in history, God sent signs through storms and floods,

God sent prophets to call humanity back to a relationship of love with God and love with our neighbour.

But people have failed to listen.

Eventually God decided to become human to show us how to become like God. But Jesus is far more than a good example to us. Jesus gave his life, he suffered and died, to make up for our failings and sins so that we may life.


How does this work?

St Paul in the New Testament explains how Adam and Eve in the Old Testament committed a grave crime. This crime caused division between God and humanity.

With any crime, there is a punishment and a penalty to be paid in order for the relationship to continue. If someone is caught speeding, you may lose points and maybe your licence, and you will have to pay quite a large fine.


But what happened with Adam and Eve?

Adam and Eve, the first human beings, the representatives of all of humanity broke relationship with God. They offended God and chose to walk in a different way. The punishment was that humanity was no longer able to walk in God’s presence, no longer were we able to live in the Garden of Paradise, and no longer were we to live for ever. But humanity did not want the relationship restored.


Jesus came into the world to renew the relationship between God and humanity. Jesus suffered and died in order to restore humanity to God.

Through Jesus’ death, Eternal life and Paradise is offered to all of us. Those who believe in God, those who have faith, those who live the ways of Jesus Christ will live for ever.


Today we focus on Jesus’ death. I invite you all to think about how we would live without the intervention of Christ. How could we live without a God? What would life be like if death was the end?

Life without the hope of resurrection, a life that ends permanently with death I think would be miserable. Think about this. Pray about this. The Church gives us Good Friday to think about our relationship with God. Are we dead or do we want to live for ever?


All of us are here because we believe that there is something beyond the grave.

If there was no after-life then we could live lives that have no consequences. We could do exactly what we wanted to do, when we wanted to, and we wouldn’t need to think about anyone else.


God has come into our world as a human being. He has paid the penalty for our sins, for our rejection of God, so that we can have eternal life.


It is a miserable day, but it is with a sense of hope that we look beyond death.

In today’s Gospel we heard Christ give his physical mother to John the Apostle. Mary is not only the physical mother of Jesus, but she is spiritual mother of us all. We can learn from Mary about death and about hope.


One of the most famous sculptures in the world is Michelangelo’s Pieta. It is a depiction of Mary holding the body of Christ, after Christ has been taken down from the cross.

In Michelangelo’s depiction in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome one can see Mary with a serious and sad face. But Mary is not despairing. Mary is not crushed. Mary can see beyond the pain, the blood, the cross, the death. Mary, as a human being, is mournful. But Mary knows that death is not the end. On the third day, Peter, John and Mary Magdalene go to the Garden to visit the entombed Jesus, but Mary the Mother of Jesus does not visit the Garden. Mary knew that Jesus would rise from the dead. Mary heard the words of Christ and Mary believed.


My friends, Jesus has promised us eternal life if we believe and live his way. Jesus has given himself, his very life, so that our relationship with God is restored. Jesus has died for us so that we may have eternal life. Let us not forget what Jesus has done for us.

Good Friday is unhappy. It’s raining. It’s dark. In many respects today is like a funeral. But let not us forget that Good Friday is not the end. A funeral is not the end of life.


Christ has died, so that we all may have life.

Christ is risen, and we all will be risen from the dead, both spiritually and physically.

Christ will come again. My friends, let us be ready to meet the Lord when he comes. Mary is our model.

Mary helps us to say to Jesus:

Yes Lord, I believe, I thank you for dying and paying the penalty in my place, thank you for showing me how to live and to become like you. Lord, I desire eternal life, I desire to dwell in your glorious presence for all eternity. Loving Lord, come.


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