21 March 2008

Homily for Good Friday - Chief Service

St. John tells the Passion of our Lord in his own unique way, and he provides little hints along the way as to what it was all about. Here are some of the hints: Mary and Jesus’ words to her; the fact that it is after he dies, that his side is pierced; and what comes out of his side: blood and water. By these hints John would have us learn to see in the Passion of Christ that Jesus is the new Adam and the Church is His Bride, his new Eve.

Let’s take the hints and unfold them: Mary first. You meet Mary only twice in St. John’s gospel. The first time is in chapter two, at a wedding feast. That is significant! There, you remember, Mary interceded for the young couple with Jesus, but he replied: “Woman, my hour is not yet.” Nevertheless, there He worked His first sign, turning water into wine. And His disciples believed in Him.

The next place you meet Mary is under the cross where she stands next to John, the beloved disciple. And Jesus speaks those tender words to her: “Woman, behold your son!” and to John “behold, your mother.” But what is it that is going on in those words? Quite simply, Jesus is bidding His mother good-bye. Now, ask yourself, when is it in Scripture that a man leaves his father and mother? Is it not when he is to be joined to his wife and become one flesh with her?

And when at the creation of the world, God created woman, did he not do so by first putting the man to sleep, and then taking from his side, a bride? So in John’s Passion, it is after our Lord has been put into the sleep of death that his side is opened by a spear.

And then there is the mystery of what flowed from His side: blood and water. The Church has long looked at this in awe and recognized here the very fountain from which the Sacraments spring. For this water is the water of Baptism, mingled with the blood of Christ. And this Blood is the Blood of the Eucharist, mingled with the water of life. And through these sacraments, Christ’s own life creates His Church, His beloved Bride. And why? That she and He might become one.

For that is what the cross of Jesus is all about. He becoming one with us in our sin, bearing it to death, that by being joined to us His death might be the death of our sin and that we by being joined to Him might be given His pure and sinless life. Think of it! When a couple marries and one of them is wealthy and having everything while the other is impoverished and having nothing, what happens? In their becoming one, the debt is assumed and answered for, and the wealth is given to the impoverished one. So it is between us our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what Good Friday is all about. It’s just one of the reasons we call this day alone in all the year “good” because on this day the greatest good, way beyond our imagining, befell us.

As you ponder the Passion reading you have just heard, hear in it with ears of faith this wondrous story of the how Your Lord Jesus suffered and died in order that He might be joined to you as a Bridegroom to a Bride, that His life might flow into you and overcome and destroy your death, that His forgiveness might come to you and wipe out the entirety of your sinful indebtedness. “Thy Bridegroom dead! God's Lamb has bled Upon thy sin forever; Pouring out His sinless self In that vast endeavor."

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