Friday, 30 March 2018 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the Good Friday, together the entire Church celebrate the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and Our Saviour, suffered and took up His cross, and willingly be crucified on that cross to His death at Calvary. This day is indeed truly ‘Good’ because it is the day when our salvation has come, coming unto us from the cross of Christ.

The Lord Jesus was condemned to death and He was forced to take up His cross, a punishment for sins and for mistakes that He Himself had not done. It was the hatred, the enmity and the jealousy of the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin and the chief priests that had condemned the Lord to death on the cross. But the Lord accepted it willingly, though He did agonise over it, in His humanity, at the Garden of Gethsemane just before He was betrayed and arrested.

It was painful for the Lord to endure His cross and to bear it up to Calvary, because the burden of the cross is not just the weight of the physical wooden cross itself, already considerable due to its large size, and it is not just the distance which Jesus had to travel from the Praetorium in which He was condemned to death in the midst of Jerusalem towards the hill of Golgotha outside the city of Jerusalem.

No, the main reason why He suffered is because of our sins, all the faults and mistakes we have committed. We should have been punished for this, and we should have been cast into hell for eternity, but the Lord loves each and every one of us, for He has created us all out of strong and pure love, and surely He does not want any of us to perish because of our sins and disobedience.

Hence, He chose voluntarily to bear all the burdens of those sins and took it up upon Himself. We may think that such a feat is impossible, but remember, brethren, that what seems to be impossible for men, is completely possible for God. And God chose to bear our sins, weighing Him down on the cross, and also all the pains and sufferings He had to bear. All the lashes and wounds, all the cuts and slashes, all the spittle and all the humiliation He had to bear, all these are due to our sins.

When His accusers assailed Him and when the burdens of our sins crushed down upon Him, He accepted all of them quietly, as mentioned in the Scriptures, like that of a lamb waiting to be slaughtered for sacrifice. He gave Himself on the Altar of Calvary to be the Paschal Lamb, to be sacrificed for all of us, for the redemption of our sins. He brought all of our sins to the cross, and there, as the sacrifices of old, He poured down His own Blood, to seal a new Covenant between God and us, reconciling us with Our loving God and Creator.

That is just how much He loved us all, brothers and sisters, that He was willing to endure all of that, so that by His suffering and death, all of us who believe in Him may live. We all may think that the Lord remained on the cross because He was nailed to it, even when the people mocked Him to come down from the cross and save Himself. The teachers of the Law and the chief priests mocked Him, calling on Him to show a miracle by freeing Himself and coming down from the cross, that they might believe in Him.

Why did Jesus not come down from the cross? Certainly, He is God, and He is perfectly capable of doing so. But the words of the people who mocked Him, and the voices of the Pharisees, the chief priests and the elders were the voices of the devil, and all of his fallen angels and demons. Just as the devil tempted the Lord Jesus in the desert at the start of His ministry, then, at the very end of His earthly ministry, Satan tempted Jesus to abandon His mission and come down from the cross.

Who would not want to save himself or herself? Who would not want to be relieved from a great pain, inconvenience and suffering? We mankind have always been selfish by nature, and certainly we are tempted to put our own needs, desires and wants ahead of that of others. But that was not what the Lord Jesus had done. Despite all the pain He suffered, all the painful wounds He had to endure, all the blasphemy and all the insults He had to listen to, and the painful wounds of the nails that were hammered into His hands and feet, He persevered on.

For whose sake did He do all these? For all of us. It was not the nails that bound Christ fast to the cross, but it was the love He had for each and every one of us. It was His love that enabled Him to bear such a great burden and such an unbearable amount of pain. As huge and massive as our combined burden of sins are, even much greater is the love that God has for each and every one of us.

That, is what we need to realise when we look upon He Who is crucified on the cross, He Who died for us on Good Friday, the day when God Himself, Who took up the existence of Man, laid down His life, to save His beloved people. Have we appreciated the love that He has for each one of us? This is what we need to reflect on, as we remember His suffering and death today, on Good Friday.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, all of us are called to follow in the example of Christ. If the Lord Himself has shown such great love and concern for each and every one of us, and if He has been so merciful and forgiving towards us, granting us opportunities after opportunities, and chances after chances for us to be reconciled with Him, even to endure such great pain on the cross for that purpose.

Are we able to love Him in the same way, this God Who has loved us so much? Just as He has given everything for our sake, even dying on the cross, are we able to love Him with all of our heart and devote ourselves to Him? That is first and foremost our priority in life and our primary obligation. If we have not done so, then we must love God with all of our strength, with all of our effort, with all of our mind, heart, body and soul.

Then, naturally, as Christians, we must also show the same love to one another. After all, God loves each one of us equally. He even forgave all of His enemies, and all those who have condemned Him to death on the cross. He prayed to the Father, that He would not hold them accountable for the sin they have committed for condemning Him to death, because of their ignorance and inability to see and understand the truth.

Yet, sadly, we see in many occasions around us, how we Christians act in the most un-Christian manner. We often gossip about each other and we often slander and seek to harm one another, either physically or mentally. We often bicker over worldly matters and we become jealous and covetous when we do not get or have what others possess. In the end, our actions and deeds, and even our words cause hurt and pain in others.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, our actions that cause harm upon others are sin before God, and as we have just discussed earlier, it is the same sin that the Lord Jesus bore upon His cross for our sake. How can we call ourselves as Christians if our actions are contrary to what God has done and what He has shown us and called us to do?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we move on from today’s remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday, let us all renew our commitment before Lord crucified, that from now on, we will no longer live our lives with selfishness, ego, anger, and all sorts of negativities that had plagued our lives in the past. Instead, let us all love Him and love one another, just as He has shown us His ultimate love with the cross.

May the Lord, crucified for us this day, be the source of our strength and inspiration, that we may continue to live our lives in His footsteps, devoting ourselves at all times to serve Him wholeheartedly. May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our actions. Amen.

Friday, 30 March 2018 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel 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 cup 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 also are 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 fulfil 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 fulfil 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, 30 March 2018 : 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, 30 March 2018 : 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 for 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 hand 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, 30 March 2018 : 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, 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 suffering 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 sins. 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.