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

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)

Some years ago, I saw a woman crying during the dramatised Stations of the Cross. She said: “Ha… you people are beating Jesus too much… it is just a drama.” I wondered how this woman would have felt if she were present amid that crowd that followed Jesus from Pilate’s Palace to Golgotha, where Jesus was beaten without mercy, his face became unrecognisable, and the soldiers forced him to carry the cross. That crowd that accompanied Jesus that day did not cry. They had fun watching Jesus suffer; they even cheered, danced and mocked Jesus. Some spat on him and insulted him. “Hail King of the Jews…. He saved others, he cannot even save himself…”

If today is a day we remember all that gory stuff, why do we call it a ‘Good’ Friday? What is good about crucifixion and death? What is good about hanging an innocent man and leaving him to die from fatal wounds while dragging a heavy cross? What is good about having a mother watch her only child die? What is good about God being reduced to such a state of powerlessness as to die like a worm? These questions are answered in today’s readings. Let us now explore the goodness of Good Friday based on the Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ.

1. “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34) - Divine Sympathy: Good Friday shows God understands our pains. He knows what it feels like to love and be rejected, to be betrayed, angry, hungry, insulted, dissatisfied, sick, weak, or sorrowful. Good Friday teaches us that Jesus once felt whatever you were going through today. In today’s Second Reading, the Book of Hebrews says: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). Fix your gaze on the Crucifix, you will hear Jesus saying: “I know what you are going through.”

2. “Amen, I say to you: This day, you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43) - Confidence in Prayer: Good Friday assures us that since God has felt our weaknesses and pains, He listens to our prayers, He makes excuses for us, and He is always ready to help us in our time of need. The book of Hebrews says: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). Are you going through an addiction? Do you feel overwhelmed by guilt from past sins? Look at Jesus in the Crucifix confidently and say: “Lord, help me. Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

3. “Woman, there is your Son… There is your mother” (John 19:25-27) - Meaning: Good Friday gives meaning to our sufferings, especially those inflicted upon us when we are innocent. Why should good people suffer? If God is powerful, why would He allow my enemies to succeed? Good Friday is the perfect answer to these questions. Jesus was completely sinless, yet He suffered. Mary was also sinless, but she suffered even more. “It is harder to watch the pains of those we love than to bear our pains.” The image of Christ on the Cross shows us that not all suffering is a punishment for our sins. Suffering could be redemptive; you could be going through pain on behalf of others like Jesus, who “bore the sins of many and made intercession for transgressors.” (Isaiah 52:12)

4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34) - Hope: Good Friday teaches us that suffering doesn’t last forever. If we suffer for our faith in God, great glory awaits us. Only after we have suffered do we realise that God did not forsake us in the first place. In today’s First Reading, Isaiah prophesies: “As many were astonished at him -- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men -- so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him.” (Isaiah 52:14-15) Good Friday gives us hope. Whenever you are confused, troubled and hurt by the ups and downs of life, look at the Crucifix and say: “This too shall pass.”

5. “I Thirst” (John 19:28-29) - Righteousness: Good Friday reminds us of the price of sin. This price was high, but Jesus paid it because he thirsted for our souls. Jesus continues to thirst for righteousness today. All the gory stuff that we have just re-enacted in the Stations of the Cross and the Passion Narrative is to show us that sin is never to be taken lightly. Sin is dangerous. Sin is expensive. When next you are tempted to sin, look at the Crucifix and remind yourself of the enormous sacrifice Jesus made because of the sins of mankind. Why must I add to Jesus’ pains on the cross? Why am I behaving like the crowd who mocked Jesus?

6. “It Is Finished” (John 19:29-30) - Healing: Good Friday is good because, on this day, mankind received healing and freedom from captivity. Isaiah says: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Do you remember when God told Moses to erect the bronze serpent in the wilderness so that those bitten by fiery serpents would be healed? (Cf. Numbers 21:8). That bronze serpent was only a representation (a shadow) of Jesus on the Cross. It was not the bronze itself that healed the Israelites (otherwise, this would mean God-sanctioned idolatry) but Jesus who hung on it. Hence, Jesus said: “When I am lifted from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32). With Jesus, I know my pains are finished, and my struggles are ended. I may still be fighting, but I know I am victorious.

7. “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit” (John 19:29-30) - Humility: The book of Hebrews says: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered...” (Hebrews 5:8). Consider the slap that Jesus received in today’s Passion Narrative. How many of us could hold ourselves like Jesus in a similar situation, especially when we know we have the power to fight back? Isaiah says: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Do you feel that pride has cost you to lose so much in the past? Gaze at the Crucifix today and pray: “Lord, teach me humility.”

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to sacrifice for the wellbeing of others and help me always to humble myself. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Good Friday Liturgical Colour: Red. Bible Study: Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Ps. 31:2,6,12-13,15-17,25, Hebrews 4:14-16,5:7-9, John 18:1-19:42).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu