Fr. Roger J. Landry
Villa Guadalupe of the Sisters of Life, Stamford, CT
Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion
Good Friday 2016
March 25, 2016
Is 52:13-53:12, Ps 31, Heb4:14-16.5:7-9, Jn 18:1-19:42
To listen to an audio recording of tonight’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- It would not be lost on any Sister of Life or any serious Catholic that this year Good Friday falls on March 25, the day on which from the earliest days of Christianity the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation and the reality of Jesus’ incarnation. Our first when a liturgical collision happens like this is a little sadness that we can’t celebrate both Good Friday and the Mystery of the Annunciation when we “should.” Let’s admit it: there’s something a little off to celebrating the Annunciation on April 4, as we will do this year.
- But at a much deeper level, it’s extraordinarily fitting that we celebrate Good Friday on March 25, because in the early Church, many of the great fathers and figures of the early Church were convinced not only that the Word of God was conceived on March 25 but also died on March 25. St. Augustine wrote in The City of God, “Now Christ died … on the eighth day before the kalends of April [March 25th]. He rose the third day, as the apostles have proved by the evidence of their own senses” (Chapter 54). Tertullian said that it was under Tiberius Caesar, in the consulate of Rubellius Geminus and Fufius Geminus, in the month of March, at the times of the Passover, on the eighth day before the calends of April [i.e. March 25th], on the first day of unleavened bread, on which they slew the lamb at even, just as had been enjoined by Moses” (Against the Jews 8). Hippolytus, the papal rival before his reconciliation with Pope Pontian and martyrdom, wrote, “Our Lord was born on Wednesday, December 25th in the forty second of the reign of Augustus and the 5500th year from Adam. He suffered in the 33rd year on Friday March 25th in the 18th year of Tiberius” (On Daniel Book 4). Many other sources, the earliest martyrologies, the Chronogaphy, Epiphanius of Salamis, Orosius of Bracara, and Dionisius Exiguus, who reworked the calendar to try to center of all time, year 1, on Christ’s birth, all give witness to the common understanding in the days of the early Church that the Word came forth from the Father and the Word entrusted himself back to the Father on the same day, March 25.
- And so today it’s fitting for us to look at Good Friday from the perspective of the Incarnation and Annunciation, because we can learn so much about what’s happening today if we look at it from the perspective of what the Church celebrates every March 25, a day so central to your spirituality as Sisters of Life.
- First, the incarnation.
- The letter to the Hebrews tells us, “When he came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me’ (Heb 10:5). God the Father had indeed prepared a body for Jesus, a body that would eventually be offered as a Paschal Lamb to take away the sins of the world. What he received from Mary on March 25 he gave back to the Father on March 25 three-plus decades. The Word of God’s humility in assuming the form of a slave in the womb of the Virgin of Nazareth showed even greater humility in allowing himself to be imprisoned to the Cross. But because the quiet of the house in Nazareth and the clamor of the place of the Skull outside Jerusalem, we celebrate the same continuous mystery, that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that all who believed in him might not perish but might have eternal life; that Christ took on our humanity so that we might be made partakers of his divinity; that he took on our body so that we might be able to become members of that body, as a Bride united to Bridegroom on the marriage bed of the Cross the union of love is consummated for the Bride’s and the world’s redemption. That’s what helps to make this Friday above all Good. That’s what makes our bitter beholding Jesus’ of bruises and buffets, his crown of thorns, lacerated back, pierced hands, feet and side so paradoxically sweet. He loved us so much, we were so precious in his eyes, that he was willing to enter our world, even into our suffering and death, so that we could enter his kingdom and his triumph over suffering, sin and even death.
- The second great mystery is the Annunciation.
- When the Archangel Gabriel had appeared to Mary at the Annunciation to reveal to her her role in God’s plan for the salvation of the world, he told her first to rejoice and then told her not to be afraid. After telling her she was full of grace, the Lord was with her and that she had found favor with God, he described how she would conceive in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit a son who would be saved “God-saves,” who would be great, called Son of the Most High God, and who will reign as the Son of David over the house of Jacob forever. These were truly incredible words, for nothing, as the Angel told her, is impossible for God. Her response was to say that she was a handmaid totally at God’s service, announcing that she would let her whole life develop according to God’s word.
- But as we have been pondering in the first readings from Isaiah at Mass throughout this week and will later in the first reading in the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, God’s word has already prophesied that the Messiah would be a suffering servant, that he would be despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, betrayed by a close friend, falsely accused, taunted by his enemies, sold for 30 pieces of silver, led like a lamb to the slaughter, give his back to those who beat him and his cheeks to those who would pull out his beard, that his tongue would stick parched to the roof of his mouth, his hands and feet pierced, his clothes divided for a game of dice, ultimately wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our sins, so that we might be healed by his stripes.
- The deeper reality of Mary’s fiat, her beatitude through faith — blessed is she who believed that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled, as her cousin Elizabeth said to her — would become clearer over time. And it happened in her second and third annunciations.
- But what happened in Nazareth was just a foretaste of two other annunciations to the Blessed Virgin Mary in which the purpose behind Jesus’ incarnation would become ever clearer. The “second Annunciation” happened at Jesus’ presentation and it was a prophecy of today.
- St. John Paul II was the one who explored these mysteries in Redemptoris Mater:
- Simeon words, suggested by the Holy Spirit, JP II says, “confirm the truth of the Annunciation. … Simeon’s words match the meaning of this name, which is Savior: “God is salvation.” Turning to the Lord, he says: “For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk. 2:30-32). At the same time, however, Simeon addresses Mary with the following words: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed”; and he adds with direct reference to her: “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (cf. Lk. 2:34-35). Simeon’s words cast new light on the announcement which Mary had heard from the angel: Jesus is the Savior, he is “a light for revelation” to mankind. Is not this what was manifested in a way on Christmas night, when the shepherds come to the stable (cf. Lk. 2:8-20)? Is not this what was to be manifested even more clearly in the coming of the Magi from the East (cf. Mt. 2:1-12)? But at the same time, at the very beginning of his life, the Son of Mary, and his Mother with him, will experience in themselves the truth of those other words of Simeon: “a sign that is spoken against” (Lk. 2:34). Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.”
- The third Annunciation happened on Calvary and Jesus himself was the One who revealed to Mary the vocation to which she once again said fiat.
- John Paul II tells us in Redemporis Mater:
- “This blessing [of Mary’s fiat in faith] reaches its full meaning when Mary stands beneath the Cross of her Son (cf. Jn. 19:25), “faithfully preserv[ing] her union with her Son even to the Cross It is a union through faith- the same faith with which she had received the angel’s revelation at the Annunciation. At that moment she had also heard the words: ‘He will be great…and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end’ (Lk. 1:32-33). And now, standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary is the witness, humanly speaking, of the complete negation of these words. On that wood of the Cross her Son hangs in agony as one condemned. ‘He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows…he was despised, and we esteemed him not’: as one destroyed (cf. Is. 53:3- 5). How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God’s ‘unsearchable judgments!’ How completely she ‘abandons herself to God’ without reserve, offering the full assent of the intellect and the will” to him whose ‘ways are inscrutable’ (cf. Rom. 11:33)! And how powerful too is the action of grace in her soul, how all-pervading is the influence of the Holy Spirit and of his light and power!
- “Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self- emptying. For ‘Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men’: precisely on Golgotha ‘humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self- emptying. This is perhaps the deepest ‘kenosis’ of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened. On Golgotha, Jesus through the Cross definitively confirmed that he was the ‘sign of contradiction’ foretold by Simeon. At the same time, there were also fulfilled on Golgotha the words which Simeon had addressed to Mary: ‘and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.’
- “Yes, truly ‘blessed is she who believed!’ These words, spoken by Elizabeth after the Annunciation, here at the foot of the Cross seem to re-echo with supreme eloquence, and the power contained within them becomes something penetrating. From the Cross, that is to say from the very heart of the mystery of Redemption, there radiates and spreads out the prospect of that blessing of faith.”
- What this means for us
- We witness on Calvary Mary’s own suffering at the birth of the Church.
- As Sisters of Life, you participate in a special way in that spiritual maternity. One of you told me that when you approach this Mystery of Mary’s third Annunciation on Calvary, you cannot help but focus on the “blood and the water” that came forth from Christ as he was pierced. Present at so many childbirths, you see the blood and water coming forth as part of the birth, uniting conception and birth to the blood and water of Calvary.
- We turn to Mary constantly as Mother and Queen of Mercy. We ask her in the Hail Mary to pray for us sinners now and always. In the Alma Redemptoris Mater, we beg her to hasten to help her children who have fallen by trying to get up again. We’re consistently asking her, “Miserere!” She beholds always with love and mercy.
- I finish with the words of the Angelus, pointing us toward the day of the Incarnation, but also, in its fiat and its closing prayer, very much pointing us to the Good Friday, and we make this prayer through the woman of the perpetual fiat, the Mother of great faith who accompanies us always just as she accompanied her Son to the end: “Pour forth, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts that we to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the Message of an angel, may by his Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of the Resurrection.”
The readings for tonight’s commemoration were:
Reading 1 IS 52:13—53:12
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him—
so marred was his look beyond human semblance
and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man—
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.Who would believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,
nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.
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.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
But the LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.
If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.
Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.
Responsorial Psalm PS 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
For all my foes I am an object of reproach,
a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends;
they who see me abroad flee from me.
I am forgotten like the unremembered dead;
I am like a dish that is broken.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
But my trust is in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.”
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
Take courage and be stouthearted,
all you who hope in the LORD.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
Reading 2 HEB 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
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.
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.
Verse Before The Gospel PHIL 2:8-9
Christ became obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name.
Gospel JN 18:1—19:42
to where there was a garden,
into which he and his disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place,
because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards
from the chief priests and the Pharisees
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him,
went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?”
They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
He said to them, “I AM.”
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, “I AM, “
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them,
“Whom are you looking for?”
They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
“I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill what he had said,
“I have not lost any of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it,
struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.
The slave’s name was Malchus.
Jesus said to Peter,
“Put your sword into its scabbard.
Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus,
bound him, and brought him to Annas first.
He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year.
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews
that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus.
Now the other disciple was known to the high priest,
and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.
But Peter stood at the gate outside.
So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest,
went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.
Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter,
“You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”
Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire
that they had made, because it was cold,
and were warming themselves.
Peter was also standing there keeping warm.
The high priest questioned Jesus
about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him,
“I have spoken publicly to the world.
I have always taught in a 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.”
When he had said this,
one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said,
“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?”
Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm.
And they said to him,
“You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said,
“I am not.”
One of the slaves of the high priest,
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said,
“Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”
Again Peter denied it.
And immediately the cock crowed.
Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.
It was morning.
And they themselves did not enter the praetorium,
in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.
So Pilate came out to them and said,
“What charge do you bring against this man?”
They answered and said to him,
“If he were not a criminal,
we would not have handed him over to you.”
At this, Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.”
The Jews answered him,
“We do not have the right to execute anyone, “
in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled
that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.
So Pilate went back into the praetorium
and summoned Jesus and said to him,
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
“Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?”
“I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him,
“Then you are a king?”
“You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
When he had said this,
he again went out to the Jews and said to them,
“I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover.
Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
They cried out again,
“Not this one but Barabbas!”
Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head,
and clothed him in a purple cloak,
and they came to him and said,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they struck him repeatedly.
Once more Pilate went out and said to them,
“Look, I am bringing him out to you,
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
So Jesus came out,
wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them, “Behold, the man!”
When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out,
“Crucify him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves and crucify him.
I find no guilt in him.”
The Jews answered,
“We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid,
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus,
“Where are you from?”
Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
“Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you
and I have power to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him,
“You would have no power over me
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin.”
Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out,
“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”
When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out
and seated him on the judge’s bench
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
“Behold, your king!”
They cried out,
“Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered,
“We have no king but Caesar.”
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself,
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull,
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others,
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
“Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”
Now many of the Jews read this inscription,
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city;
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate,
“Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
“What I have written, I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus,
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares,
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless,
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another,
“Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “
in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Here all kneel and pause for a short time.
Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side,
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true;
he knows that he is speaking the truth,
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea,
secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews,
asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus.
And Pilate permitted it.
So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night,
also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes
weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus
and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices,
according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden,
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day;
for the tomb was close by.