ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH, DUNDALK
GOOD FRIDAY – 21 MARCH 2008
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
Last January it was my privilege, and my joy, to visit the Holy Land. There I walked the streets of Jerusalem from the house of Pilate to the Hill of Calvary. As I did so, I thought of Jesus carrying his cross along those numerous hilly streets and out the gate and up onto the mountain of Calvary. At Calvary, I knelt at the foot of the cross and gazed, in wonder, at the rock which split miraculously at the moment when Christ died. At that moment I thought of Mary, and of many people.
• I thought of the way Peter had denied ever knowing Jesus;
• of Judas betraying him for thirty pieces of silver,
• of the other disciples who ran away –
• Only the women – those brave and good and strong women – stood by him through it all.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and
Mary of Magdalene and
the other Mary, and
Veronica who wiped his face, and
the women of Jerusalem who wept for him, and
John the Beloved Disciple, and
Simon of Cyrene, who helped him carry his cross –
The Hill of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre are now contained in the one great basilica of the Holy Sepulchre – under one roof. It is just amazing to stop and see the continual stream of pilgrims – speaking different languages – from all the ends of the earth. I got the privilege of saying Mass one morning – bright and early – at 6.30 am – at the Holy Sepulchre. Once again the pilgrims were from the four corners of the earth with one particularly large group from the Philippines.
Today we are all once more confiding with the cross of Jesus Christ. In a moment we will go to the back of the Church and take the cross and hold it up for us all to look at, to bend before and to honour and to kiss. Let us be quite clear why we do all of this. We do so in order that we may share in the power of the cross to redeem and to save and to set us free. We are invited to think about the mystery of a God who suffered in Jesus but a God who continues to suffer in millions of people.
We can say that Jesus is nailed to the cross today
In the millions who are starving and dying – especially children – because they are undernourished and hungry.
Jesus is nailed to the cross today in the men and women imprisoned for the cause of justice.
In the people living on the side of the road, or sleeping rough in the cities,
Jesus is nailed to the cross in the thousands nailed to substance abuse –or drugs and alcohol.
In the meaningless of empty lives of many who are devoid of any love or respect.
As we venerate the Cross today, it might be good to remember that the cross – the crucifix – has, for centuries, helped millions through their darkest hours. Think of the Penal Crosses in our own country. By His bruises we are healed.
Good Friday is, first and foremost, about the sufferings and death of Jesus. It is about the love which brought Jesus to lose his life that we might save our lives. Good Friday is also about us and our share in his sacrifice on behalf of others. It is about our sharing in the blessings that result from the suffering of Christ and about how we can share in those blessings. It is about how we make sure that we do not contribute to or allow other people to be destroyed.
The heart of the story of Holy Week is that Christ entered the glory of His Resurrection through his suffering, death and burial.
For the followers of Christ – the way of the Cross leads to the glory of the Resurrection. Today we all need silence to examine our own lives and to make sure that we are in no way allied with those who kill or who profit from the death and suffering of others.
Today we remember all those who are broken, all those who fall into the clutches of their enemies and of their persecution. We promise, with God’s help, to do our best to rescue them by standing with Jesus.
In the Second Reading we are reminded that Christ suffered and yet offered prayers – all through his agony – to God. His prayer was heard because of his reverence and obedience to God.
We are sons and daughters of God, our Father – brothers and sisters of the Crucified. We learn obedience from our suffering. Some suffer very little – others suffer terribly – sometimes without support from those who claim to be friends of Jesus.
Suffering can destroy those without faith, but suffering – united to Jesus – can save and give dignity and restore others to life and holiness. For all the pain and suffering of the world is bound up in the flesh of Jesus – for once we are tied to his body and blood – we too can disappear into the wounds of Jesus. We too will see light in the fullness of days.
The focal part of the liturgy today is the image of the Crucified Christ. It brings home to us the true seriousness of human misery. It drives home the gravity of humankind. Yet, the Crucified Christ has always been seen as an image of hope and consolation.
One of the most moving paintings of the crucifixion was located in a hospital that cared for victims of the terrible plagues that raged in the Middle Ages. The crucified Jesus is depicted as one of those victims – his whole body is disfigured by boils of bubonic plague – the most terrible of that particular time. Today one would think of HIV or AIDS perhaps. The painting made the victims realise that precisely because of their sickness, they were identified with the Crucified Christ. That Christ, by his suffering had become one with all those who have suffered in history or who are suffering now.
They felt the presence of the Crucified One in their cross. They knew that in their pain and suffering and distress, they were in union with Christ and so were drawn into the ocean of his Eternal Mercy. They experience the Cross of Christ as their Saviour. My prayer is that all who suffer now will experience the cross as their consolation.
Today, the Cross of Christ is the focus of our celebrations. Our thoughts – our gaze – our prayers – are centred on the Cross. We go forward to honour the Cross because, by it, the world was saved. As we kiss the cross, we show our love for Christ and our absolute dependence on him.