Friday, 3 April 2015 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Good Friday, which we all know is the celebration of that momentous occasion when all of mankind were brought out of the hopelessness and despair of the darkness of the world and into the new hope because of one singular act of God, who made it all possible, through what Jesus Christ had done. It is exactly by His obedience to God His Father and by laying down His life on the cross, that He had brought us mankind to salvation.

That is why today is a good day, the Good Friday, for it is because of what had happened on this day that changed our fate. For once we had expected only suffering and death, and we feared death because it brings us nothing but anguish, sorrow, difficulties, uncertainties and many others, and because of what Christ had done on the cross for us, now we can look forward and head to the world that is to come, one that lies beyond death, and one that is of hope and joy.

There are indeed several aspects to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and there are several dimensions and significance that all of us should be aware of. And on this occasion when we commemorate that moment of the crucifixion, is the most appropriate moment for us to reflect on the significance of this to our own lives, and to our own faith in God.

We most likely know of the fact that when Christ carried that burden of the cross, He was in fact carrying the burdens of our sins. We most likely should also know that, based on what we have commonly heard in catechisms and teachings of the Church, that because He carried for us the burdens and punishments for sins, in place of us, then that was why we who believe in Him have been made free from the consequences of the sins we had committed.

However, the significance extended even much deeper beyond what we often knew, and indeed, the crucifixion, the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, was the culmination of God’s grand plan to rescue us mankind, the pinnacle of the entire Holy Scriptures and all the things in them. God has planned our salvation and liberation from sin from the very beginning of time, a very, very long time ago, and in Christ, all those plans and promises were completed perfectly.

God had made Himself into Man through Jesus, assuming the flesh of a lowly and humble Man, so that in doing so, He might reverse what mankind had erred at the beginning, starting from the first man, Adam, who disobeyed the Lord’s commandments together with Eve, his wife, and ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were persuaded and tempted by Satan to listen to their own desires rather than to listen to and to obey the Lord.

The new Adam, that is Christ, has been the One who showed mankind, all of us, that it is possible to resist and reject the temptations of our flesh and of Satan. It is possible indeed for us all to refuse the malicious offers of the evil one, but indeed only if we follow what Christ had done. He listened to the Lord, who is His Father, He refused to listen to the sweet lies of Satan and to give in to human desires and wishes.

He is God, Almighty and All-Powerful, All-Knowing and Ever-Present. There is nothing in this world that is impossible for Him. If He wanted it, He could have had it easy, refusing the cross and the suffering, letting us all to perish because of our sins. And yet, He did not do that, firstly because He loves us all so much, to the point that He was willing to go through the most horrendous and greatest of sufferings just so that we may be brought to freedom from our sins and their consequences.

He obeyed the will of the Father, and even though He was tempted during His moments of agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He obeyed and pushed on, out of His infinite and undying love for all of us. And His perseverance brought us much goodness, the liberation from the bonds of sin. God gave His only Son, for this very purpose, and He showed us as the new Adam, that mankind has the choice and the potential to change their fate, and to reject the rebellious ways of our ancestors.

And we can indeed compare this moment, the new covenant and Passover of the Lord, with the ancient and first Passover, when the people of Israel were liberated from their slavery under the Egyptians and their Pharaohs. At that night, before they were freed, they were told to eat the Passover meal, where the Passover lamb whose blood had been used to mark their houses and the flesh as the food for the people, had been given as sacrifice for their liberation.

That night was different from every other night, and at every Passover, the Jews commemorated that moment, including at the Last Supper, when Jesus had the Passover meal with His disciples. At that night however, it was indeed very different from any other night, and from any observation of the Passover. It was because instead of the usual celebration of the Passover, Jesus gave His own Body and Blood as the sacrificial offering, offered freely by the Lamb of God, through whom then He liberated us all from the true slavery, that is the slavery by our sins.

So, just as the people of Israel were set free, we have also been set free by our Lord through the cross. The cross of Christ represents the symbol of hope for us all, that by the Lord’s power, the power and poison of death had been destroyed forever. At the time of Moses, when the people of Israel were journeying through the desert, they rebelled against the Lord and as a punishment, God sent fiery and poisonous serpents that killed many of them.

Moses pleaded for the mercy of God, and God instructed him to craft a bronze serpent mounted on a tall staff, so that all who saw it may not die but live. And as Jesus told to Nicodemus, that just as the bronze serpent was lifted up and people who saw it were saved, so thus He, the Lamb of God, would also be lifted up high on the cross, that all who believe in Him and His cross, will be saved.

The cross, on which Christ hung from, is a clear reminder of that act of ultimate selflessness and ultimate love which our Lord had shown us, but it is also a reminder of what we need to do on our side, in order to fulfill the covenant, the new covenant which God had sealed with His own Blood and His own sacrifice on the cross. It is love that we should do and commit to in our lives.

The cross is made of two bars, joined together, namely the vertical and the horizontal bars. This is to remind us that act of love, that is when we love, we cannot separate the two important acts of love we need to do, firstly to our God, and then to our brethren, our neighbours around us, our fellow men. The vertical bar represents the love which we should have for our Lord, who had loved us so much first, so much so that He was willing to sacrifice Himself and suffer all the consequences of our sins, for the sake of us lowly humans, sinners and unrepentant rebels.

But it will not be complete, if we also do not love those who are around us. This is represented by the horizontal bar of the cross. A cross will not be complete without the vertical or the horizontal bar. This is to show us that we cannot just love ourselves and others without loving God and loving what He had done for us out of live, and neither can we just love God and ignore others who are around us. There are many people out there who are ostracised, rejected and unloved daily, and if we have the capacity to love, then why not?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we commemorate this important moment, let us all reflect on our own actions, whether we have loved God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, as well as loving our fellow brothers and sisters, without bias and without prejudice. It is what we should do. Remember also that every time we come for the Mass, we share together the meal of the Last Supper of the Apostles, where our Lord Jesus Christ transformed the bread and wine into the substance of His own Body and Blood.

Therefore, we all in the Eucharist also share the same Body and Blood of our Lord, who had given them freely, so that we who worthily receive them, receive also Him, who dwells in us, justifies us, and allow us to receive the heavenly grace of salvation and eternal life, which Christ had made possible by His suffering and death on the cross. Let us all today therefore commit ourselves to be better servants and followers of our Lord. Amen.

Friday, 3 April 2015 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 18 : 1 – John 19 : 42

At that time, when Jesus had finished speaking, He went with His disciples to the other side of the Kidron Valley. There was a garden there, which Jesus entered with His disciples.

Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, since Jesus had often met there with His disciples. So Judas took soldiers and some servants from the chief priests and Pharisees, and they went to the garden with lanterns, torches and weapons.

Jesus knew all that was going to happen to Him; He stepped forward and asked, “Who are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus said, “I am He.” Judas, who betrayed Him, stood there with them. When Jesus said, “I am He,” they moved back and fell to the ground.

He then asked a second time, “Who are you looking for?” and they answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus replied, “I told you that I am He. If you are looking for Me, let these others go.” So what Jesus had said came true : “I have not lost one of those You gave Me.”

Simon Peter had a sword, he drew it and struck Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the chalice which the Father has given Me?”

The guards and the soldiers, with their commander, seized Jesus and bound Him; and they took Him first to Annas. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the High Priest that year; and it was Caiaphas who had told the Jews, “It is better that one Man should die for the people.”

Simon Peter with another disciple followed Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the High Priest, they let him enter the courtyard of the High Priest along with Jesus, but Peter had to stay outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the High Priest, went out and spoke to the maidservant at the gate and brought Peter in.

Then this maidservant on duty at the door said to Peter, “So you also are one of His disciples?” But he answered, “I am not.” Now the servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire and were standing and warming themselves, because it was cold. Peter was also with them warming himself.

The High Priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in places where the Jews meet together, either at the assemblies in synagogues or in the Temple. I did not teach secretly. Why then do you question Me? Ask those who heard Me, they know what I said.”

At this reply one of the guards standing there gave Jesus a blow on the face, saying, “Is that the way to answer the High Priest?” Jesus said to him, “If I have spoken wrongly, point it out; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike Me?” Then Annas sent Him, bound, to Caiaphas, the High Priest.

Now Simon Peter stood there warming himself. They said to him, “Surely you are also one of His disciples.” He denied it, and answered, “I am not.” One of the High Priest’s servants, a kinsman of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you with Him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at once the cock crowed.

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the headquarters of the Roman governor. It was now morning. The Jews did not go inside, lest they be made unclean by entering the house of a pagan, and therefore not allowed to eat the Passover meal. So Pilate came out and asked, “What charge do you bring against this Man?”

They answered, “If He were not a criminal, we would not be handing Him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your own law.” But they replied, “We ourselves are not allowed to put anyone to death.”

It was clear from this what kind of death Jesus was to die, according to what Jesus Himself had foretold. Pilate then entered the court again, called Jesus and asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Does this word come from you, or did you hear it from others?”

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed You over to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were a king, like those of this world, My guards would have fought to save Me from being handed over to the Jews. But My kingship is not of this world.”

Pilate asked Him, “So You are a King?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a King. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears My voice.” Pilate said, “What is truth?”

Pilate then went out to the Jews again and said, “I find no crime in this Man. Now, according to custom, I must release a prisoner to you at the Passover. With your agreement I will release to you the King of the Jews.” But they insisted and cried out, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged. The soldiers also twisted thorns into a crown and put it on His head. They threw a cloak of royal purple around His shoulders; and they began coming up to Him and saluting Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him on the face.

Pilate went outside yet another time and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing Him out, and I want you to know that I find no crime in Him.” Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak, and Pilate pointed to Him, saying, “Here is the Man!”

On seeing Him the chief priests and the guards cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate replied, “Take Him yourselves and have Him crucified, for I find no case against Him.” The Jews then said, “We have a Law, and according to the Law this Man must die because He made Himself Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this he was more afraid. And coming back into the court he asked Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “You will not speak to me? Do You not know that I have power to release You, just as I have power to crucify You?”

Jesus replied, “You would have no power over Me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed Me over to you is more guilty.” From that moment Pilate tried to release Him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes Himself a King is defying Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he had Jesus brought outside to the place called the Stone Floor – in Hebrew Gabbatha – and sat down in the judgment seat. It was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your King.” But they cried out, “Away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” Pilate replied, “Shall I crucify your King?” And the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. They took charge of Him. Bearing His own cross, Jesus went out of the city to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew Golgotha. There He was crucified, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read : ‘Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.’ Many Jewish people saw this title, because the place where Jesus was crucified was very close to the city; and the title was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.

The chief priests said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews’; but, ‘This Man claimed to be King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered them, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each of them. But as the tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom, they said, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots to decide who will get it.” This fulfilled the words of Scripture : ‘They divided My clothing among them; they cast lots for My garment.’ This was what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “There is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus knew all was now finished and, in order to fulfill what was written in Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to His lips. Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up the Spirit.

As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day. They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so that the bodies might be taken away.

The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man, who had been crucified with Jesus. When they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water.

The one who saw it, has testified to it, and his testimony is true; he knows he speaks the truth, so that you also might believe. All this happened to fulfill the words of Scripture : ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ Another text says : ‘They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.’

After this, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate, for he was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly, for fear of the Jews. And he asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate agreed, so he came and took away the body. Nicodemus, the man who at first had come to Jesus by night, also came and brought a jar of myrrh mixed with aloes, about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, following the burial customs of the Jews.

There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been crucified, and, in the garden, a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And therefore, because the sepulchre was nearby, and the Jewish day of preparation was coming to a close, they placed the body of Jesus there.

Friday, 3 April 2015 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 4 : 14-16 and Hebrews 5 : 7-9

We have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our High Priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning. Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through His favour, help in due time.

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt through suffering what obedience was, and once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him.

Friday, 3 April 2015 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 30 : 2 and 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17 and 25

In You, o Lord, I take refuge, may I never be disgraced; deliver Me in Your justice. Into Your hands I commend My Spirit; You have redeemed Me, o Lord, faithful God.

I have become an object of reproach for My foes, a horror to My neighbours, a fear to My friends. Those who see Me in the streets flee from Me. I am like the dead, unremembered; I have become like a broken pot, thrown away, discarded.

But I put My trust in You, o Lord, I said : “You are My God.” My days are in Your hand. Deliver Me from the hands of My enemies, from those after My skin.

Make Your face shine upon Your Servant; save Me in Your love. Be strong and take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

Friday, 3 April 2015 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 52 : 13 – Isaiah 53 : 12

It is now when My Servant will succeed; He will be exalted and highly praised. Just as many have been horrified at His disfigured appearance : “Is this a Man? He does not look like One,” so will nations be astounded, kings will stand speechless, for they will see something never told, and they will witness something never heard of.

Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has YHVH revealed His feat? Like a root out of dry ground, like a sapling He grew up before us, with nothing attractive in His appearance, no beauty, no majesty.

He was despised and rejected, a Man of sorrows familiar with grief, a Man from whom people hide their face, spurned and considered of no account. Yet ours were the sorrows He bore, ours were the sufferings He endured, although we considered Him as One punished by God, stricken and brought low.

Destroyed because of our sins, He was crushed for our wickedness. Through His punishment we are made whole; by His wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all gone astray, each following his own way; but YHVH laid upon Him all our guilt. He was harshly treated, but unresisting and silent, He humbly submitted. Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer He did not open His mouth.

He was taken away to detention and judgment – what an unthinkable fate! He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for His people’s sin. They made His tomb with the wicked, they put Him in the graveyard of the oppressors, though He had done no violence nor spoken in deceit.

Yet it was the will of YHVH to crush Him with grief. When He makes Himself an offering for sin, He will have a long life and see His descendants. Through Him the will of YHVH is done. For the anguish He suffered, He will see the light and obtain perfect knowledge. My just Servant will justify the multitude; He will bear and take away their guilt.

Therefore I will give Him His portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong. For He surrendered Himself to death and was even counted among the wicked, bearing the sins of the multitude and interceding for sinners.