Here is my homily for Good Friday–a bit late, but perhaps a good reflection as we move toward Easter joy. Mass tomorrow at 10 A.M. All are welcome!
Friends, we can hardly miss the starkness of this day—our liturgical space cries out with the bareness—no candles, no altar coverings, no liturgical drapes. We are a bereft people on this day that marks the earthly, physical death of our brother, Jesus. This is the way that any of us feels when a loved one dies—bereft, sad—somewhat lost, even though we have come to call the Memorial Services we do for deceased loved ones, “Celebrations of Life.” The Church asks us to hold off on the celebration for a day or two and steep ourselves for a bit on what it is like to be without Jesus in our lives.
John’s gospel is always used on Good Friday because it gives us a different focus than the other accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke. We remember from Palm Sunday and Luke’s passion account that his focus was placed not so much on the detail of the suffering, but more on its meaning for each of us as depicted in Paul’s reading to the Philippians—“his state was divine, yet he did not cling to it, but became as each one of us.
In John’s account today, we simply heard Jesus say, in regard to his own personal needs, “I am thirsty.” His concern isn’t for himself but for his apostles—that they would be set free. When he does die, he simply gives up his spirit. We very much get the impression that John is trying to give; of Jesus being in control of all that is happening to him. He had the power to avail himself to what would be asked of him and he accepted his fate with no complaint. As Isaiah said in the first reading; he did not cry out, even though he was badly abused.
Even with all the suffering Jesus was asked to bear, we see only the silence with which he carried himself, so the silence built into today’s service is very appropriate. Isaiah gives the truth to this notion as well—“you were like a lamb led to slaughter and didn’t open your mouth.” John’s account does not include the purely human moments of the Last Supper or the agony in the garden. John shows us Jesus as one who suffers, yes, but one who is truly the high priest spoken of today in the letter to the Hebrews—one who stands with us and loves us in all our weaknesses, continually calling us to more.
John’s purpose it would seem is to let us know that Jesus freely accepted his death and did not struggle against it—he lived his human existence constantly showing us how we must live and accepted the consequences in his time for living a life demanding justice for all.
The evangelist further tells us that because Jesus freely chooses death, he can just as freely choose life—the new life of the resurrection. This is our hope in Jesus— to one day do the same. In this spring-time of year, even though the snow insists on being with us!—the idea of resurrection is one we can get our hearts around—out of the cold and damp ground comes so much life.
Last evening we talked about gratitude being our response to our God for loving us so much in Jesus and that really continues to be our response today. It calls to mind Paul’s letter to the Philippians—he was God, but did not hold onto that, but became human and took upon his shoulders our existence and as we said last evening, for no other reason, but love.
One can hardly walk through Holy Week and not come out on the other side believing anything but that we are loved by God. We can all stand before our loving God unafraid because of Jesus—one who came among us and was so morally perfect, coming to be one with us, living by example what each of us is called to. He only asked that we would follow in his footsteps. Sometimes that can feel daunting, but we must always remember that we will not have to do it alone—Jesus will be with us and knowing that takes my fear away—I hope it does yours as well. After today—we begin walking toward Easter joy—this is our hope—because of Jesus, we all will have new and everlasting life.
This next week on Monday, our sister Cathy Bartleson will have been gone one year already. Warren Galbus and Giles Schmid have also gone home to God since we last gathered for this service—others not from this community, but of our hearts have completed their life journeys. May they all rest in peace now as we all look forward one day to that eternal life that Jesus opened up for each of us due to his life, death and resurrection. And we continue our prayers for all those who are completing their life journeys at this time and for their families. May they and each of us know peace and many blessings today and always.