Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord 2018 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
30 March 2018
Today, we come to celebrate God’s love that finds its noblest expression in the self-giving of Jesus on the cross. It is not an act of appeasement. That would have made God into an ogre or an angry deity who demanded the death of his Son. Rather, it was an act of total self-giving; it was a love that gave itself away. God, in Christ, suffered every fury of the human heart and loved still. God’s irrepressible response to sin is love. To make it personal, God’s response to my sin and yours is to love us, not in a way that leaves us in our sin but by calling us away from it.
Jesus Christ returned perfect love for every hatred heaped upon him. Jesus becomes the seed of a new humanity, founded on a new law of love, people who succeed, not by their own power, but by power of the love of God.
Like the grain of wheat, he suffered death only to be raised up and transformed. Or in the words of the Psalm, the stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone.
There lies the Christian Good News that we proclaim even today in anticipation of Easter Sunday. Even though the passion story ends with tragedy, suffering and death are just the necessary part of the great equation. It was the great paradox that Jesus had taught throughout his life. It was the narrow door that leads to life; it was the seed that must die in order to bear fruit. It was the smallest that becomes the greatest; the loss before the finding; the dying before the rising.
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. It continues to play out in the theatre of human societies and relationships. Christ who is identified with the most marginalised and vulnerable 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 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 therefore stand united with one another, with men and women of good will in working for the coming of the Kingdom. We stand united with Pope Francis who has challenged us to replace indifference with compassion, ignorance with respect and suspicion with love.
Brothers and sisters,
As we venerate the cross, let us be empowered by God’s unprecedented response of love which overcomes all things and endures all things. Let us live by its wisdom and power. May the victory of the cross strengthen us in our commitment to overcome evil in the world.