GOOD FRIDAY HOMILY
THEME: Two Lessons from the Passion Narrative!
BY: Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe
HOMILY: In the first reading (Is. 52:13-53, 12), we see a picture of the suffering servant. He pre-figures Jesus who through his suffering and death would cleanse and save the world. This suffering servant is the sacrifice to be offered for the forgiveness of sins. In the passion narrative (Jn. 18: 1-19:42), the suffering servant was fulfilled in the person of Christ and we see the manner and form in which he sacrificed himself. It was in February 2004, that Mel Gibson released perhaps, the most graphical screen-adaptation of the Passion of Jesus Christ. He wanted us not just to watch but also to feel the events of Christ’s passion and death.
The story of the passion, crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ is obviously one of the most common stories told throughout the ages. Today, on this celebration of the Lord’s Passion, the Church presents this story to us and invites us to reflect on the great mystery of our redemption and how our Lord Jesus suffered to merit us salvation. Each time we reflect on this story of the Passion, there is always a new inspiration that is given birth to and a new lesson learnt. Today, we shall briefly reflect on just two lessons that we can learn from the events of Christ’s passion and death.
Lessons from the assistance given to Jesus by Simon of Cyrene: The gospels record that in his journey to Golgotha, fearing that Jesus would die before reaching there because he could scarcely walk, the soldiers mandated Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross behind our Lord. Simon of Cyrene is a reflection of an ideal Christian life – that of carrying the Cross behind our Lord. It is Christian to carry one’s cross but more Christian to carry one another’s cross because Christ in carrying his cross, also carried our individual crosses so that we might be saved.
It is because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that we are saved and he wants us to reciprocate by sacrificing for the salvation of others through assisting them in their crosses. Today, Jesus is still carrying an old rugged cross in those who can’t pay their hospital bills and be discharged, those who can’t afford three square meals, those who are suffering unjustly, those who are victims of intimidation and have nobody to speak for them, those in need of education but can’t afford one, etc. Jesus wants us to help him in carrying these crosses and do not forget that whatever you do for them, you did for Christ. What sacrifice can you make today to better their situations? How can you assist them? There are those who cannot share in the joy of Easter because of the several challenges confronting them. Can you help them overcome these challenges and make it possible for them to share in the joy of Easter? We can freely offer to help them rather than wait to be mandated by circumstances before we help them.
Lessons from the sacrifice made by Joseph of Arimathea: The passion narrates two significant events that point out to the same concept of sacrificing for others: Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ remains and Nichodemus’ sacrifice of myrrh to anoint Jesus’ remains. Today, we are also invited to emulate these virtuous men in identifying with those who suffer. On the streets, we encounter victims of accidents or armed robbery, yet many of us walk away without any sign of sympathy or assistance. Around us, we find the sick, aged, lonely, rejected and dejected, what effort have we made to identify with them. Joseph was not shy to identify with Christ even after his execution as a criminal. Sometimes, we deny people our sympathy and help because of the social stigma they bear and this is wrong.
Identifying with them may be in form of encouragement, comfort or alleviating their suffering in any kind we can sincerely offer. Nichodemus sacrificed a mixture of myrrh. How much have you sacrificed for the good of those suffering around you? For those who are suffering, whether justly or unjustly, whether people identify with you or not, do not be despaired. Be happy when you share in the sufferings of Christ. Jesus knows what you are passing through. That is why the second reading assures us that Christ our high priest has been similarly tested in every way we are though he did not sin. So let us confidently approach his throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace when we are in need. Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the mystery of the Lord’s passion and death, may God forgive our sins, assist us in our sufferings and give us the grace to identify with those who suffer. Amen. God loves you.
Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe