Good Friday – 2016
“We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.”
In today’s liturgy we re-live and experience the suffering and death of Jesus who brought us salvation. We followed Jesus on the way of the cross and witnessed the tragic moments of his life. We realized how Jesus identified himself with all human experiences including suffering and death.
But what is most striking about the scene in Gethsemani is not the betrayal of Judas, but the wandering of the other apostles. Only two continued to follow Jesus after his arrest, Peter and John, who the Scriptures call the disciple whom Jesus loved.
They follow Jesus, bound and carried away from the soldiers, at a distance: their faith is wavering. And we know that before the night is over, Peter denies his Lord and Savior three times.
It is only John, the Beloved Disciple, who continues to journey with Jesus. It is John who is beneath the cross with our Blessed Mother Mary. We can be sure that even at the Cross, John, the youngest of the apostles, perhaps in his early twenties at this time, did not understand the death of his Master.
He wept for his Lord but could not fully understand what was taking place there on Calvary. We know that of the apostles, only one did not become a martyr, and that apostle was Saint John. It was he who had been faithful to the Lord’s Cross, who had shared Our Lord’s death not at the end of his life, but near the beginning.
And throughout the rest of his life as an apostle he prayed deeply about this great gift, this great sacrifice that Christ made. Throughout the rest of St. John’s life, as he continued to serve others, his mind turned back, year after year, to that Good Friday and the hill of Calvary, where the love and the glory of God were most clearly revealed.
And through the Eucharist which Christ had given John the power to celebrate for the sake of others, Saint John was able to enter into that scene once again, to return to that day which is today, and to that hill of Calvary.
There is no offering of the sacrifice of the Mass on Good Friday, and yet still we are able to share in the fruits of that sacrifice. As we enter into Holy Communion with Our Lord, let us turn our minds again to the sacrifice of Calvary, and the love in Christ’s Sacred Heart which allowed Him to offer it for our salvation.
It may perhaps sound strange that the day on which Jesus suffered crucifixion is commemorated as “Good Friday”. If it is a “good” day, it must be also a “beautiful” day, because goodness and beauty go hand in hand.
In some languages other than English “Good Friday” is known as “Sorrowful Friday,” emphasizing the tragic aspect of the day. How can a tragic and sorrowful day be at the same time a good and beautiful day? It can be explained only by showing the paradoxical nature of this particular day.
A paradox has two contrasting faces. It is one and same reality with two different experiences. Both these experiences are true and they cannot be separated from each other like the two sides of a coin.
The Friday which is crucial to our salvation has two faces: one looking backward and the other looking forward. One looks at the suffering and humiliation of death and the other looks at the joy and glorification of resurrection.
Both these aspects together constitute the Pascal Mystery. In order to understand this mystery in its full depth, height and breadth the Church celebrates it in three days of the Pascal “Triduum”. The Pascal mystery is unfolded as a “passage” from death to resurrection, beginning in the evening of the Holy Thursday and ending in the evening of the Easter Sunday.
On “Good Friday” we are the crucial moment of our Pascal experience, at the peak of an awareness, where death and life meet and part at the same moment. It is like the midnight which marks, on the one hand, the end of the night and, on the other, the beginning of the dawn.
It is at this moment that the fullest meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ is revealed. In the cross we find salvation, life and hope. The French have a proverb: Friday is always the best or the worst day of the week. Which it is to be depends, I suppose, on what’s in store for you at the weekend. It is Easter Sunday that makes Good Friday good. It is the end that gives meaning to a story.
The fruit of the cross is eternal life. Let this Good Friday imprint in our hearts the sign of the cross which may always remind us of the challenges of our life in following Jesus Christ faithfully. Amen.