Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, Year B 2021 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: Is 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16,5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
2 April 2021
Good Friday 2021: Love of God in the crucified Christ overcomes all things
Good Friday seems like the ultimate misnomer and irony. It was the day Jesus, the greatest human being who ever lived, suffered and died the most humiliating and excruciating death. So, how can it be good?
It was the day that the depths of human evil were made plain to see: the crowds that cheered him turned against him; his closest circle of friends who had vowed to stay by him deserted him; his enemies succeeded in their conspiracy against him. His final cry on the cross says it all “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” Dream turned into nightmare; hope into disillusionment and optimism into delusion. The crucifixion seems to be a spectacular failure for Jesus and an unmitigated disaster for those who put their trust in him.
Good Friday, however, was the day that also gives us a glimpse into the depths of God’s love. Ironically, it was through the cross that the greatest love was revealed. It was not evil that had the upper hand. It was God’s unflinching fidelity, his unconditional love for the world in Jesus that brought about this triumph.
With the eye of faith, we can recognise the true meaning of Good Friday. For this was the hour of glory that Jesus 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 supreme high priest who made himself completely like us in our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
On this day, we come to venerate the cross because it is a symbol of God’s love for us. It is not an act of appeasement of the God who demanded Christ’s death in place of ours. That would have made God into an ogre or an angry deity. Rather, it was an act of total self-giving; it was a love that gave itself away. It was love that truly triumphed against all odds.
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.
Christian life is not about winning or staying on top of the social ladder. Rather, it is about giving oneself to a greater cause. We followers of Christ are to live life to the full by surrendering to the process of defeat, suffering and dying. That is the path of discipleship, the path of the Beatitudes, of love in the face of hatred, of joy in suffering for the cause of right and of life in giving itself away for the beloved.
Good Friday commits us to following Jesus’ footsteps: to live for others even at our own cost, to accompany the most vulnerable, to minister at the liminal and precarious places of extreme human vulnerability, to empower all people to live life more fully. Christ who is identified with the most marginalised continues to suffer, die and rise again. 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 in Christ.
Good Friday gives rise to Easter Sunday. Despite the menacing power of sin and darkness, God’s yes in Jesus triumphs for all eternity. May we have the courage to be our best even in the worst possible scenarios, following the God of reversals and surprises, one whose love nothing can destroy. 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.