The Questions of the Passion, Good Friday, April 14, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Chapel of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations
Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion
Good Friday 2017
April 14, 2017
Is 52:13-53:12, Ps 31, Heb4:14-16.5:7-9, Jn 18:1-19:42


Today’s homily was not recorded. The following notes guided the homily: 

  • Beauty of this small ceremony is that we cannot be spectators. We are forced to participate, not just quietly in our heart, but actively.
  • Pope Francis: must see that this implicates us.
    • (Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio, El Jesuita) An authentically Christian discipleship begins our recognition that we’re sinners in need of salvation and the concomitant experience that that Savior looks on us with merciful love. “For me, feeling oneself a sinner is one of the most beautiful things that can happen, if it leads to its ultimate consequences” the future Pope Francis said in “El Jesuita.” At the Easter Vigil, he says, we sing “O Felix culpa,” exulting in the “happy sin” that brought us to experience the love of the Redeemer. “When a person becomes conscious that he is a sinner and is saved by Jesus,” Cardinal Bergoglio said, “he proclaims this truth to himself and discovers the pearl of great price, the treasure buried in the field. He discovers the greatest thing in life: that there is someone who loves him profoundly, who gave his life for him.” Many Catholics have sadly not had this fundamental Christian experience. “There are people who believe the right things, who have received catechesis and accepted the Christian faith in some way, but who do not have the experience of having been saved,” he lamented. He then gave a powerful metaphor of what the true experience of God’s mercy is like. “It’s one thing when people tell us a story about someone’s risking his life to save a boy drowning in the river. It’s something else when I’m the one drowning and someone gives his life to save me.” That’s what Christ did for us to save us from the eternal watery grave of the deluge of sin. That’s what we should celebrate every day of our life, just like someone whose life has been saved by a hero would never be able to forget it, not to mention thank him enough. Unfortunately, he said, “There are people to whom you tell the story who don’t see it, who don’t want to see, who don’t want to know what happened to that boy, or who always have escape hatches from the situation of drowning and who therefore lack the experience of who they are. I believe that only we great sinners have this grace.”
  • But we’re not just saved on the outside by God’s work. The account of the Passion has so many questions that are directed straight to us today just as they were 2000 years ago:
    • “Whom are you looking for?” — Not just the question of Jesus twice asked the guards, but also the one he made to the two disciples on John the Baptist after Jesus had appeared at the Jordan. Are seeking Jesus?
    • “Can you keep watch with me for one hour?” — Can we accompany Jesus for 60 minutes? For two hours? For a day? For a lifetime into eternity?
    • “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” — Jesus’ question to Pilate after Pilate asked him whether he was a king. Are we here fundamentally because of others’ faith or is it personal? Do we believe he is a king about to enter into his reign? Do we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is King of the Jews? When we look at him, do we behold our king? Do we recognize that his kingdom is not of this world? If it were, he would have legions of angels fighting for him. But for his Kingdom, are we fighting for it? Are we agonizing, striving to enter through the narrow gate? Are we ready to enter through the needle’s eye? Do we seek first his kingdom and his holiness, knowing that everything else we need will be given to us besides, because if God didn’t even spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, he would give us that everything else?
    • “Whom do you want me to release to you?” — Do we want Jesus? Again Barabbas, it’s an easy choice for anyone but perhaps Barabbas’ mother. But if Jesus were pitted against someone we really loved — who like us is a sinner — would we still choose Jesus who has chosen us? A best friend? A spouse or serious boyfriend or girlfriend? A son or daughter? A mom or dad?
    • “Shall I crucify your king?” — He is crucified because of our sins. That’s why he died. Judas didn’t recognize by his betrayal that Jesus would be executed, hence he returned the 30 pieces and threw them on the floor. We don’t recognize Jesus has to pay the price for our sins either. But when we sin, the end result is indirectly to choose Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
    • That brings up other questions that are as relevant today on Good Friday as they were in their original contexts:
      • “Who do you say that I am?” Is Jesus an imposter or who he says he is?
      • “Do you also want to leave?” Faith in the Eucharist. Faith in what Jesus is accomplishing. Do we want to stay even if it will cost us?
    • Ultimately we get to this question, made to St. Peter: “You are not one of that man’s disciples, are you?” “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him? — Are we one of his disciples? To be a disciple means that we actually learn from him, act on his lessons? If we wish to be his disciple, we must deny ourselves, pick up our Cross daily, and follow him?
  • The obedience of faith
    • That brings us to the somewhat shocking words at the end of today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. The sacred author tells us that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who,” not believe in him, but “obey ” Salvation is offered to those who prove to be disciples, who put Jesus’ words into practice, who deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow him. Our faith must lead to our action. This is the means by which Jesus, as Isaiah says today in the first reading, “shall take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offenses.”
    • So what we’re talking about is putting into action what Jesus said. Are we prepared to lose our life to save it? To go the way of the grain of wheat? To die with him on Calvary? Are we prepared to be crucified with Christ so that the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in Him who loved me and today gave himself up for me? Are we prepared to be crucified to the world and the world to us. Do we recognize that Jesus on the Cross is a scandal to Jews (something that couldn’t happen to a Messiah) and foolishness to Gentiles (the lack of basic wisdom not to be publicly executed), but to us the power and the wisdom of God? To be a Christian means to do more than wear a Crucifix or venerate one on Good Friday. To be a Christian means by be a Simon of Cyrene and help Jesus carry his Cross. It means to relive in our own life the Second Station and take up our own Cross and allow Jesus to be Simon to us. It means ultimately to yoke ourselves, as body to head, as bride to Bridegroom, to Jesus on the Cross. Knowing that, how do we approach the qustions:
      • Who do you say that I am?
      • Do you say this on your own or because others have told you about him?
      • Do you also want to leave?
      • Whom are you looking for?
      • Can you keep watch with me?
      • Whom do you want me to release to you, Jesus who will lead you to crucifixion, or Barabbas, who will let you go your own way?
      • You are not one of that man’s disciples are you? Do you want to be?
    • The obedience of faith is a tall order. It was for Jesus. He learned obedience according to his humanity. There are two great consolations in the passage of the Letter to the Hebrews:
      • “In the days when Chirst was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplicaitons with louds cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his reverence.” It seems he wasn’t heard, at least his prayer, “Father, take this chalice away from me.” But his prayer for the Father’s will to be done was heard. The will to save us. The will of the Father to incorporate us into his Son’s saving sacrifice. The will to lead us to perfection through what we suffer. The will to give us all he knows we need to lose our life to save it.
      • And Jesus is praying for us to have this strength. Hebrews tells us, “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.” He understands our weaknesses and is praying for us, so we can approach him confidently to receive his forgiveness for when we don’t live up and grace always for timely help.
    • He teaches us his secret in his last words from Golgotha before he died:
      • “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” This is what gave him courage. This is what gave him strength.
      • “Woman, behold your son.” “Behold your mother.” She became obedient together with Christ. As his heart was being pierced with a lance, hers was with a sword. She’s praying for us that we might remain strong on Calvary, so that in response to Jesus’ thirst, we might fill ourselves like the water jugs in Cana, to quench that thirst for our souls and through us for others.
    • We are ultimately participants not just today liturgically but in life.
      • Jesus wants to help us to answer each of these Good Friday questions.
        • To confess him to be the Messiah and Son of God on our own in union with the faith of the Church and saints throughout the centuries.
        • To say that we’re looking for him always.
        • To say we never want to leave him
        • To say that we want to spend our life and not just an hour with him.
        • To say that we want Jesus, that we choose Jesus, who previously has chosen us.
        • To say with humble yet unabashed confidence that we are his disciples always including when we’re carrying on own crosses.
    • And He wants to help us entrust ourselves to the Father and the Mother that Father chose for him and he from the Cross chose for us.

The readings for today’s Commemoration were: 

Reading 1 IS 52:13—53:12

See, my servant shall prosper,
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

R. (Lk 23:46) Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
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

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley
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.”
Jesus answered,
“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?”
Jesus answered,
“Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered,
“I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus answered,
“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?”
Jesus answered,
“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.
It read,
“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’.”
Pilate answered,
“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.