Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

April 2, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

“In the days when Christ was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”

Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us on his visit to San Antonio, Texas in 1987, “We die in the physical body when all the energies of life are extinguished. We die through sin when love dies in us. Outside of love there is no life. If man opposes love and lives without love, death takes root in his soul and grows. For this reason, Christ cries out: ‘I give you a new commandment: love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other’ (Io. 13, 34). The cry for love is the cry for life, for the victory of the soul over sin and death. The source of this victory is the Cross of Jesus Christ: His Death and His Resurrection.”

Because of the love of Christ displayed in laying down His life freely out of obedience to the will of the Father, human death dies. Eternal life wins through the actions of Christ’s love, most especially His death on a Cross. The victory of life over death is not an inevitability coming about for us simply through the passage of time. Freedom triumphs through obedience. Death is transformed in its defeat by Christ and becomes an expression of love when it is accepted by us in obedience and offered freely in imitation of, and with the help of Jesus. Good Friday shows us the extreme lengths that God goes to love us and even more to redeem in us humans the one way we can love Him in return: only through the fully human action of Jesus in obediently giving His life on the Cross.

With faith lived in the sacramental and moral practice of the Church, the sacrificial action of Christ on Calvary makes it possible for each of us to join Christ in the same offering of ourselves and our lives to God. We now can freely offer not just our material possessions or our time and talents, but ourselves to God in love. Through our faith and through the Eucharist we can join in the death of Jesus, so that our own human death is no longer our extinction, which would leave behind nothing more than the transitory memory others have of us. For the faithful and lovingly obedient Christian, death becomes the transition to resurrected life with God. The last enemy of mankind is vanquished by Christ. Our faith turns into hope through the power of the love of Jesus Christ.

Human life lived excellently is sweet and shines with translucence, but the words of the Canticle of Zachariah recorded in Luke’s Gospel remind us that even at its brightest and sweetest, human life is lived “in the shadow of death.” The darkness of human death, the pall it casts over human life, becomes the place where God’s love is most clearly shown to us, in the death of Christ, and through God’s mercy, in our own death. God’s power and love conquer even this. God went to this extreme in His power to redeem us — the blood of His own Son.

The Resurrection of Jesus shows us that death does not silence the final word. His resurrection shows what His words about life and morality recorded in the Gospels truly mean. And the words and actions of Christ were not just those of a prophet or a philosopher; they are the words and deeds of God himself, God incarnate, speaking to us and acting toward us as a human being in His own voice, the Son of God and the Word of God. They require more than acknowledgement, they require obedience, acceptance, and imitation.

Human life is short. Human life is fragile and prone to destruction through so many contingencies. The only thing that truly matters is not how others see us here, but how God sees us, and how we have carried out the natural and graced responsibilities of life. Each of us today ought to think about our own time to die, because we too will face Almighty God with the life that we have lived here. What sort of life will we give back to Him? May it be a life lived in the integrity of faith, hope, and charity, in fulfillment of our obligations to God, to His Church, to our country, and to one another.

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