Good Friday — St. Matthew Cathedral
Saint John’s account of the Passion of Our Lord began in the garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested by a band of soldiers. There Saint Peter, trying to save Jesus, drew his sword and cut off the right ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus told him to put his sword into its scabbard and said to Peter: “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Jesus was ready, ready to fulfill His mission, ready to drink the cup of suffering. His love for us was so great that He went forward and allowed Himself to be arrested. He went forward to suffer because He knew its saving power. He wanted to save us. He was obedient to the Father, united to His Father in His love for us.
“Shall I drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Yes was Jesus’ answer as He submitted to the guards who bound him and then took Him to the house of Annas where He was struck by one of the temple guards. Yes was Jesus’ answer as He was then taken to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Yes was Jesus answer as He was then taken to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate.
“Shall I drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Yes was Jesus’ answer as he endured the hostility of these interrogations, and then the horrific scourging and crowning with thorns. Yes was Jesus’ answer as He heard the hateful cries of the people “Crucify him, crucify him!”
“Shall I drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Yes was Jesus’ answer as He carried the cross to the Place of the Skull and was crucified. Jesus accepted all the pain and humiliation of the passion, the abandonment, and the horror of death by crucifixion. He accepted the suffering as the will of the Father for the salvation of the world. The Master of the Universe, the Son of God, freely offered His life in such a painful and humiliating manner to redeem us. He did all this bravely and purposely out of love for you and me. No one has manifested this degree and quality of love in all human history. Jesus demonstrates sacrificial love beyond anything that has ever been seen or imagined.
Completely innocent, Jesus carried our guilt, allowed Himself to be led to the slaughter, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant who was “pierced for our offenses and crushed for our sins.” As Isaiah prophesied, He was “like a lamb led to the slaughter.” In fact, notice that the soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, like they broke the legs of the two crucified with Him. This may seem like a bare historical fact, but it had deep meaning. Jesus died like a sacrificial Passover lamb, whose bones were not to be broken. Jesus died as the Lamb of God who, by His death, takes away the sins of the world.
Let us contemplate today the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice. All human sin, yours and mine and the sins of all people through the ages caused Our Lord’s suffering. Jesus carried the burden of the sins of us all. In doing so, He brought about our liberation, our redemption. Only He could do this because He was God, the only-begotten Son. His love overcomes the evil of every sin. The depth and intensity of His suffering on Good Friday is incomparable since the man who suffered is actually God. Only He who is God from God could do this, could be capable of bearing the sins of the world. And He did so voluntarily. He freely drank the cup that the Father gave Him to drink. And because He did, we are free; He accomplished our redemption. That is why we can call today “Good” Friday. That is why Jesus’ last words before He died, as recorded by Saint John, were “it is finished.” Jesus had fulfilled the mission for which He had come into the world – our liberation from evil, our salvation, opening for us the door to eternal life. Today is “Good” Friday because today the supreme good occurred: the redemption of the world. His cross became the life-giving tree from which flows rivers of living water.
My brothers and sisters, let us be thankful today for the gift of our salvation. From the cross, Jesus gave us a beautiful gift to help us on the path of salvation. He gave us His mother to be our mother too. With Mary our mother, let us stand at the foot of the cross and learn from her to offer our sufferings in union with Jesus for the salvation of the world. Jesus did not conceal from us the prospect that we would suffer for the sake of His name. In fact, He said that we must take up our cross if we wish to be His disciples. When we encounter pain and suffering in our life, whatever it is, it can be redemptive when united with the suffering of Jesus. It is good to remember Jesus’ words to Peter in the garden and to say with Him: “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” It’s not easy to say yes like Jesus did. But when we do, our suffering can be meaningful. Offered up with Jesus, it can be redemptive and bear good fruit. The good news is that Jesus is with us in our suffering. He is very much present in every human suffering. By the power of His Spirit, He can act within our suffering, bringing salvation. The power of Christ’s cross gives meaning and life to every form of suffering. The power of God is seen in the power of the cross: it is the power of love, the power that conquers sin and death.
In a few moments, we will pray the solemn intercessions, bringing to the Lord the needs of the whole world. This is especially appropriate since Jesus on the cross is the Redeemer of all, the Suffering Servant who took upon Himself the sufferings of the people of all times. In our world today, there are so many who are suffering for whom we must pray, including our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters. The terrible battle between the force of good and evil is still occurring. But we know that in the end, the love of Christ triumphs. After the solemn intercessions, we will venerate the cross. It is the cross of our salvation. The fruit of the tree of the cross is not death but life, not defeat but victory. The holy cross is our hope, our only hope, because Jesus is our hope, our only hope. He is our merciful Savior. And so we pray: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.