Pictures from today’s service may be seen here.
GOOD FRIDAY HOMILY
ST. MARY CATHEDRAL, CHEYENNE
BISHOP PAUL D. ETIENNE, DD, STL
Our Triduum continues today. Jesus spent the early part of the night in prayer with his disciples. During the night, Judas brought those who will arrest Jesus to a place Jesus treasured; a place where Jesus developed his relationship with his disciples, where they prayed together, and rested from their journeys; the garden of Gethsemane. In this garden where the disciples came to know Jesus as the Son of God, the moment has arrived for the Son of Man to be lifted up and revealed as the Savior of the world.
Last night’s Gospel from John began with these words: “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) This is a key text for us to understand the events of Good Friday. We now understand that Jesus knew the Father intimately, the Father’s will precisely, and loves the Father completely and freely. United to Jesus’ love for the Father is his love for us, and his passion and cross reveal that he loved us to the end.
On Good Friday, we remember that Jesus suffered and died for us. We remember his cross, not just as an instrument of death, but as the tree of life. In a few moments, we will once again venerate the cross, and as Jesus embraced the cross with love beyond all telling, we approach the cross today, with all the love of our hearts mindful of and grateful for the love that ran down the cross as blood.
From an historic distance, the Prophet Isaiah foresaw the events of the suffering servant, and his words speak to the truth of Jesus’ tragic and cruel death: “If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him.” Shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus, St. Paul helps us understand the mystery of God that was at work in the crucifixion and death of Jesus: “passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, and achieved eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-12) A bit further on in the same letter, St. Paul continues: “For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a mere copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself that he might appear before God now on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24)
An early Church Father, St. John Chrysostom wrote eloquently about the sanctuary, recognizing that Jesus not only entered the sanctuary of heaven to present his own blood to the Father for our salvation, but that his own body was a sanctuary as well. “The soldier pierced the Lord’s side; he breached the wall of the sacred temple.”
My friends, the significance of this moment is the foundation of our faith. At the same time, the fullness of the mystery before us can never be fully understood in this life. But let us press further none-the-less for deeper understanding.
We know that Jesus embraced his suffering and death freely. He did so out of loving obedience to the Father. Jesus’ suffering and death was also the act of loving mercy by which we are redeemed. Jesus not only loves the Father, but he loves you and me, and he loves us to the end. These are life lessons to be learned and lived in the life of every believer.
Jesus teaches us to love the things of this world, but to be free of them, to live in obedience to God and in loving service for others. Jesus, the sinless one, died for our sins, and we are always to strive to leave sin behind, yearning upward always for heaven, where even now, Jesus is before the Father, pleading our cause. It is important that we live each moment with the knowledge of our faith, with a strong act of faith in order to live fully our faith.
For instance, in our own suffering, we are to remember that God still loves us. He never abandons us. Jesus knew the Father’s love when he allowed himself to be arrested. Jesus, who knew the Father’s will as he embraced his passion, knows the Father’s will in our suffering. With knowledge of the Father’s love, and a heart filled with love for us, Jesus knew his passion and death would redeem the world. He also knows how we are to meet the challenges of our life. With Jesus at our side, convinced of God’s love for us, we can do all things, endure all things, hope all things.
Do not be afraid. Trust Jesus. Go forward in hope. Jesus is already in our future, preparing the way, waiting for us. Have faith. Know and believe, and always recall, that the blood poured forth from the cross this day came forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This blood is our salvation. This blood reveals the secret within the heart of God, that God loves us beyond measure. The cross is also the evidence, that Jesus loved us to the end. He loved us perfectly. He loved us freely. He loved us fully. And, he still does, and always will.
May this perfect love, which casts out all fear, be yours and mine, today and always.