Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for Good Friday, Celebration of the Passion of the Lord

April 7, 2023
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

“Though He was harshly treated, He submitted and opened not His mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, He was silent and opened not His mouth.” Jesus does not say a lot in this Passion account; He speaks less as the Passion account moves more closely to His death. He is silent amid the angry screams and accusations made by the crowds; He is silent amid the scheming casuistry of the high priests; and He is mostly silent before Pilate.  At one with Him in His silence is His mother, Mary.  She stands with Him at the foot of the cross with the Beloved Disciple with an immaculate love that surpasses even the naturally powerful bond between a mother and her son. 

The silence of Jesus and the accompanying silence of Mary are because God is speaking now. God is speaking His Eternal Word in silence and not offering a competitive narrative or compelling argument. He certainly does not speak in the manner of the high priests who seek to maintain control of a corrupt system of religious leadership and see in Jesus a threat. He does not speak in the manner Pilate who seeks political advancement as a transfer from Palestine and sees in Jesus a tool to manipulate the crowds. He does not speak in the manner of the crowds who are drunk on the dramatic narrative of a messiah like Barabbas and shout their anger. God is speaking the Truth and offers no argument to convince the cynical. He speaks the Truth fully that no narrative could ever fully encompass except the Eternal Word of God spoken on the cross.

For the last several weeks of Lent we have witnessed Jesus speak to the conscience of the Samaritan woman at the well resulting in her conversion but the hardening of hearts of the religious leadership. We have seen Jesus cure the man born blind with the result being the hardening of hearts of the religious leadership and the abandonment of the cured man by his own family. We have even seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead with this miracle being received with even more obstinacy by those who have ears to hear and eyes to see to the point that they desire to kill also Lazarus. Arguments, good works, and even miracles can go only so far, and Jesus has given all as today He gives His silence — not in anger but in revelation.

Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote that “human salvation demands the Divine disclosure of Truth surpassing reason.”  This is because the human intellect was darkened by original sin and is unable except with the illumination of grace to understand the fullness of the truth. God’s Word is eternal, and He proclaims the Word on the cross through the love of Christ.  The cross of Jesus is the truth to which He testifies. The fullness of the truth is the unconditional love of God who gives His Son, and His Son who offers Himself in obedience, to ransom us from the power of sin and death. God gives His Son that we might not settle for any clever argument or political policy when He offers us instead the fullness of the Truth who is Jesus. He gives His Son as the truth which like love cannot impose itself on anyone.  The Truth and Love that are Jesus require a free acceptance in loving obedience of our share in His cross. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Deus Caritas Est, “It is only by looking at Jesus dead on the cross for us can this fundamental truth be known and contemplated: God is Love. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.”

Jesus Christ on the cross is the truth spoken by God, and at the same and only time since Eden, the unalloyed truth spoken by man in response to God. Jesus Christ on the cross reveals the truth of humanity in all its death dealing ugliness rooted in the sin of the Garden and the lie of the serpent.  Jesus Christ on the cross at the same time reveals the truth of God in the glory of His creation and in all His perfect justice. Jesus Christ is the life-giving mercy and healing forgiveness that makes death a part of this world and not part of eternity. Jesus Christ on the cross presents for us the only path to life. “Though He was harshly treated, He submitted and opened not His mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, He was silent and opened not His mouth.”

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