Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
14 April 2017
The story of the passion that we have just heard on this solemn day is sombre and tragic. Jesus seemed to be all alone. The crowds that cheered him turned against him; the disciples who pledged total loyalty to him deserted him; his enemies succeeded in their conspiracy against him. The cry of Jesus on the cross says it all “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” The crucifixion seems for all intents and purposes a spectacular failure for God, for his Messiah and for us.
With the eye of faith, however, we can recognise the true meaning of Good Friday. For this was the hour of glory that he had spoken about; this was the climax to the life of a humble Messiah who came to serve and not to be served; the prophet who resisted all forms of evil; and the Suffering Servant who was totally faithful to God’s plan for the salvation of the world.
The story of the passion that we have just heard on this solemn day is sombre and tragic.
The Good News is that it was not evil that ultimately prevailed. On Good Friday and on the cross, it was love that truly prevailed. Even though the passion story ends with tragedy, Jesus shows us that suffering and death born for the sake of others have transformative power. Indeed, they lead to new levels of being, living and relating. They enable us to enter into communion with the God of love, to expand the boundaries of life even in the here and now. This is the great paradox that Jesus taught and lived: life is lived fully and fruitfully not by surrendering it to self-survival instincts or the dominating powers. Life is fully and fruitfully lived when it can make a difference to others, that it can transform society and make it into a mirror of God’s kingdom.
Jesus seemed to be all alone.
As we gather on this sombre day, we are reminded that the drama of the Passion did not begin and end with Jesus 2000 years ago. Christ continues to suffer and die particularly in those whom he is closely identified. As Christians, we are called to recognise the face of Christ in the least of his brothers and sisters; for their suffering is Christ’s; their dying is Christ’s; and we have a sacred task of enabling them to experience the fullness of life.
Good Friday also gives us a glimpse of the triumph of love over hatred and life over death. It was not evil that had the upper hand. It was God’s unflinching fidelity, his unconditional love in Jesus that brought about this triumph. We are therefore encouraged to work and turn the tide in favour of the least of our brothers and sisters, confident that the Kingdom of God will prevail. The triumph of love, the joy of the Gospel spurs us on.
On Good Friday and on the cross, it was love that truly prevailed.
We stand united with one another, with men and women of good will. We stand united with Pope Francis who has given us a strong leadership on the care of the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalised, the persecuted. They are the asylum seekers, refugees abroad, the homeless, marginalised at home, the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, the displaced in war-torn Syria etc. Pope Francis’ words and gestures inspire us to speak and act in their favour because at the end of the day, we will be judged by how we love and care for them. He challenged us to replace indifference with compassion, ignorance with respect and suspicion with love.
Good Friday is truly a victory of God over evil.
Brothers and sisters,
Good Friday is truly a victory of God over evil. It is his love in Jesus that prevailed. Despite the menacing power of sin and darkness, God’s yes in Jesus triumphs for all eternity. May we follow the footsteps of the humble and suffering Servant until the end. May our discipleship and witness to his self-giving love be brought to fulfilment in accordance with God’s vision of the fullness of life for all humanity.