Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for Good Friday

Celebration of the Passion of the Lord

April 15, 2022
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, TX

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

The high priest interrogates Jesus in the account of the Passion that we have just proclaimed. The high priest questions Jesus about His disciples and about His doctrine. Jesus responds to the high priest, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in the synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” The temple guard strikes Jesus and demands, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

Jesus’ response reveals that it is for us to answer the question of the high priest. Do we believe that Jesus has spoken rightly? We have heard Jesus speak to us. Well, do we know what He taught us and what He said to us? Do we really believe it? How do we answer the high priests of our contemporary world when they ask us what Jesus has taught us in the Gospel revealed in Sacred Scripture and in the Tradition of the authentic teaching of His Church? Do we believe that Pilate and his successors today have power over Jesus? And are we friends of Caesar or are we faithful disciples of Jesus, sinners in need of the gift of salvation that only He can give? Do we witness clearly, or do we run and hide in equivocation? Do we stand at the foot of the cross with the Blessed Mother, with Mary the wife of Clopas, and with Mary Magdalene, or do we deny Christ as we lurk in the shadows of conformity with the contemporary world, steeped in relativism and indifferent to those who suffer?

Our answer is not delivered directly to the high priests of the religion of today, nor even to Pilate and his successors of today. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Hebrews 4:15). The only answer that we can give in our sinful human condition is that of silent contrition for our sins and for our cowardice and stand instead in the silence of Jesus who willingly gives His life and sheds His Precious Blood for our salvation. Christ’s silence is expiatory for our sins and a sign of His total outpouring and self-emptying of love for the Father and His love for us by His Passion and Death on the cross. Any false religion deceptively attempts to hide the cross from view, or at least to make it tolerable as a form of decoration but to remove its sacrificial character as the entrance of the Divine love into the world of humanity.

Pope Francis observed, “Festive acclamations and brutal torture; the silence of Jesus throughout His Passion is profoundly impressive. He also overcomes the temptation to answer back, to act like a “superstar.” In moments of darkness and great tribulation, we need to keep silent, to find the courage not to speak if our silence is meek and not full of anger…We need to resist the devil in silence, “holding our position”, but with the same attitude as Jesus. Jesus knows that the battle is between God and the prince of this world, and that what is important is not putting our hand to the sword but remaining firm in faith. It is God’s hour. At the hour that God comes forth to fight, we must let Him take over. Our place of safety will be beneath the mantle of the holy Mother of God.”

The silence of Jesus and the accompanying silence of Mary are because God is speaking now. God is speaking the full truth and not offering a competitive narrative or compelling argument in the manner of the high priests who seek control of a corrupt system of religious leadership, or Pilate who seeks career advancement, or the crowds who seek the emotionally compelling narrative of a messiah like Barabbas. God is speaking the truth and offers no narrative to impose His way through manipulation. He speaks the truth fully in a way that no narrative could ever fully encompass except His Son, Jesus Christ, the fullness of the truth spoken on the cross.  Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote that “human salvation demands the Divine disclosure of truth surpassing reason.” God’s Word is eternal, and it is spoken silently on the cross.

The Blessed Virgin Mary standing at the foot of the cross of her Son, preserved from stain of sin at her Immaculate Conception, is the only human being who can say in communion with God, “to ransom a slave I gave away a Son.” The Blessed Mother shows us that there is nothing opaque about her Son’s mission or doctrine. In so doing, she represents the Church. She stands precisely where the Church can only authentically stand — at the foot of the cross. In our baptized membership in the Church, we cannot hide anything that Christ has revealed or taught us in Scripture and Tradition, even if the high priests of this world slap us. On Golgotha, Mary at the same time witnesses the fulfillment of God’s promise by standing at the throne of Her fully human Son, which is the cross where He wears His crown made bloody and precious by the thorns of our sins. Our King vanquishes the power of Hell and cunning of the devil, for in His dying it is finished. Mary with Christ keeps silent for God is speaking. Are we listening?

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