Good Friday – 2021

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April 2, 2021

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne

Today, Good Friday, the Church commemorates with deep spiritual union the death of the Son of God on the cross. The crucifixion of Jesus changed human life and history forever. The Latin word for cross is crux. The crucifixion of Jesus is the very crux of Christianity. G.K. Chesterton wrote: “You will not be able rationally to read the Gospel and regard the crucifixion as an afterthought or an anti-climax or an accident in the life of Christ; it is obviously the point of the story.”

For many In our secular society today, today is no different than any other day. Many may note – yes, today is Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ death, but that’s about it. I’ve noticed throughout my life a progressive decline in a serious observance of Good Friday. When I was a child, stores were closed, churches were full, we really fasted, not just from food, but even from speech. The three hours from noon to 3 p.m. — was a solemn time – we kept silence. We spent many hours in church. This was common. We attended the Good Friday liturgy to venerate the cross. We attended the Stations of the Cross.

The crucifixion of Jesus is not something incidental to our faith. The crucified Jesus is at the heart of our faith. There is no Gospel without the crucifixion. One cannot fully celebrate Easter, the Resurrection, unless one has first entered into the mystery of Good Friday.

And so we are here in the cathedral this afternoon. We have attentively listened to St. John’s account of the Passion and death of Jesus. The ancient Roman orator Cicero called crucifixion “the most horrendous torture.” And so it was. But the Gospel account of Jesus’ Passion and Death is not merely the account of a terrible execution. The crucifixion of Jesus was very different from any other Roman execution or any other execution for that matter. First of all, the one executed was not just any man – He was the Son of God. He didn’t have to die that way. In fact, He didn’t have to die at all. His execution was, most importantly, a sacrifice, a sacrifice that He freely offered. His was the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Another reason Jesus’ crucifixion was unlike other executions:  His crucifixion was not His defeat. It was the defeat of Satan. And the story does not end with the body of Jesus laying in a tomb. It ends with an empty tomb.

St. John’s account of the Passion emphasizes that Jesus was in complete control over the events of His Passion. Jesus is the Son of God. He has divine power. The events of His Passion happen because He allowed them to happen. St. John underscores the freedom with which Jesus went to the Passion. Our Lord had earlier said in the Gospel: “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (John 10:18). Jesus freely went to the cross and offered His life in sacrifice as a perfect gift of love, given to the Father for the world’s salvation, for our salvation. In doing so, Jesus reveals the revelation of the infinite depths of the Father’s love and mercy toward us sinners. So what some may see as a mere execution, we see, with the eyes of faith, as the greatest act of love that no one could ever hav