Message: The cross unlocks the code - who we are, why God created us.
For this Good Friday homily I will use a quote from Fr. Richard Neuhaus. I preface the quote with a sketch of his life: Born in Canada, he studied in the United States to become a Lutheran minister. In the sixties he accompanied Dr. Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement. He also saw the importance of civil rights for another group - the unborn. He coined the phrase, "every unborn child should be protected in law and welcomed in life." In 1990 Pastor Neuhaus joined the Catholic Church and a year later he was ordained a priest. Until his death in 2009 he was considered one of the most influential Christian leaders. He wrote brilliantly on the relationship between religion, culture and politics. Notwithstanding his wide range of activities, he kept his focus on Jesus and the cross. One of his best books is "Death on a Friday Afternoon" - a meditation on Jesus's final words from the cross. From that book here's the quote I promised you:
"If what Christians say about Good Friday is true, then it is quite simply the truth about everything."
The cross is, quite simply, the truth about everything. The cross, you know, is the first letter in God's alphabet. When God created the world - when he sparked the Big Bang - at that first moment of creation, God saw the cross: That God, the Creator of the universe, would become man in Jesus and die on the cross.
The cross is the truth about everything. Only in the cross can we make sense of human suffering. Last week a young priest friend told me was facing the funeral of a boy who committed suicide. He asked me if I had a word for him. Maybe he thought because I am an older priest, I might have some magic answer. I don't, but I told him he needs to go to the cross - and help that mom take her anguish to the cross. To the question of human suffering we have only one answer - the cross.
The cross holds the code that unlocks the meaning of of creation and human life. Jesus said, "Unless the seed falls to the ground and died, it remains just a seed, but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Deep down you and I recognize that truth, We have to die, we have to embrace the cross, to find our purpose, to find the happiness we were made for.
I know a man who has an enviable life. He received an early retirement and has money enough for everything he desires. He gets up when he wants, eats whatever he likes and spends the day with his computer, television and books. He seems to have it all, but he told me that when he wakes, he feels fear, a dread that rises and falls during the day. He medicates himself with alcohol and drugs - and the internet, the biggest drug of all. Like a person with a Smart Phone, it always has something to pull him back in. I do not judge that man. I don't know ultimately what is in his heart, but I do know what Jesus said, "Unless a seed dies, it remains alone." It creates it's own little hell.
On the other hand, if the seed dies, it produces fruit. The person who dies - who embraces the cross - finds his true self. Last week I was with high school students and young adults for confessions. As I a priest I greatly value the confessions of young people. When they share temptations, hurts and failings with me, I have no great wisdom to impart, but I ask them to focus on the cross. The cross has everything: forgiveness, healing, strength, humility, patience, hope. The cross has it all. Many young people nod. They know they are called to heroic sacrifice: to die to self and live for others, ultimately for God.
The cross unlocks the code - who we are, why God created us. The cross reveals the depths of God's love. As we saw on Palm Sunday, God's love is extravagant, even seeming wasteful, like the the woman breaking an alabaster jar of perfumed oil and pouring it over Jesus. The cross shows the extravagance of God's love and the gravity of our sin, our ingratitude. I began with a quote from Fr. Neuhaus that the cross is "truth about everything." I conclude with a further quote from Death on a Friday Afternoon:
"In the cross we see the rendering of the verdict on the gravity of our sin. We have to come to our senses. None of our sins are small or of little account. To belittle our sins is to belittle ourselves...to belittle their forgiveness, to belittle the love of the Father who welcomes us home."
We now turn to God in prayer and then adore the holy cross. I will chant these words: "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world." And you will respond, "Come, let us adore." Amen.
Homilies for Triduum 2015:
From Archives (Good Friday Homilies):
Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
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