Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Good Friday of our Lord’s Passion, the moment when Jesus our Lord was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate at the instigation of His opponents, and put to suffer and was tortured, made to bear the heavy wooden cross, and eventually was crucified on the cross, and died. This is what we commemorate today, the day when our Lord Himself died for our sake.
And why do we call this day ‘Good Friday’? Should we not be mourning for such a sombre event, when someone died, and all the more, God Himself Who died? That is because, without Good Friday, then all of us mankind, who are all sinners, would have perished and be destroyed, as then we would have had no hope for salvation. As we are sinners, our sins should have caused us to be damned and to be cast out from the grace of God, and endure the same fate as Satan and his angels, that is eternal suffering.
Yet it was God’s love for each and every one of us that had led to the cross. The cross of Christ is first of all the symbol of God’s love, for the Lord Jesus was willing to carry up that heavy cross, not just the burden of the heavy physical wooden cross, but also the even much heavier burdens of our sins, the combined weight of our disobedience, our faults and our failures. It was all these which God had carried upon Himself, bearing on Himself all of our sins and the consequences for those sins.
St. Paul in his Epistle to the faithful and the Church in the city of Rome, spoke of how people would not find it easy to give up his or her life for the sake of another person, even if the person is a close or good friend. They may consider it if the person had been very good and upright in all things. As a result, there might just indeed be people who would give up his life for a righteous person. But usually, there would not be those who want to do anything good for the sake of those who were wicked and evil.
But take note how God showed His great love for His people. He gave up Himself and His life, not only for the righteous or for the just, but for everyone, every single one of us mankind, from the greatest saints to the worst of sinners and wicked people. Indeed, He also died for the sake of His enemies and all those who had put themselves as obstacles in His path!
That is indeed what God had done, just as He had done for the sake of His people Israel in the past. He showed them care and concern, and was truly patient with them, even though when they have constantly rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him. Because of their sins and wickedness however, the Israelites perished in the desert as what was supposed to be their just punishment came up to them.
In one occasion, we heard how the Israelites suffered grievously from fiery serpents that were sent by God Who was furious at their lack of faith, and as punishment for their sins. Indeed, many of them died and there were many among them who were swayed to turn themselves in to the Lord, admit their sins and wickedness. The people came to Moses, asking him to ask the Lord to forgive them, for they would no longer sin before Him.
Therefore God instructed Moses to craft the likeness of a serpent, a bronze serpent, to be placed on a stand so that all the sons and daughters of Israel could see the bronze serpent. And all who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and who ought to have died, would not die because they had seen the bronze serpent, the symbol of God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is a reminder to all of them, that their sins had brought about their downfall, and should have ended up in them perishing, but God loved each and every one of them, and wanted to forgive them.
Jesus Himself made the direct comparison between that event with His own Passion. He was very specific in His mention of what would happen at the time of His own Passion, when the Son of Man, Himself, would be lifted up high for all to see, just as Moses had raised the bronze serpent in the past. That was when Jesus was crucified, put to death on the cross, a way to die at that time, most humiliating and reserved only to the worst of criminals in accordance to the Roman law.
Surely, the devil himself would have thought that he had won when Jesus was arrested, condemned to death and brought to the cross at Calvary. Ever since Jesus began His ministry, he had done all of his efforts in order to undermine and stop the works of Jesus, by tempting Him, which did not work, and then, he chose to oppose Him through various people and various means.
But God turned that symbol of ultimate humiliation into the symbol of the ultimate victory and triumph, for as we all know, Jesus Who died on that day at Calvary, did not die for nothing, and neither did He die permanently, for death had no hold or power over Him. Sin and death, darkness and evil fled away when the Lord rose in glory after He had died for three days, showing to all that death is not to be our fate. The fate of all humanity, is instead to share in the cross of Christ and therefore to share in His glorious resurrection as well. And this means that we all ought to have eternal life with God.
Moses raised the bronze serpent, and all who saw it lived, even though they had been bitten by the fiery serpents. In the same way, Jesus our Lord was raised up on the cross for all of us to see, to witness and to realise, that by His death on the cross, He Who took up upon Himself all the multitudes of our sins, had sacrificed Himself out of love for us, so that whoever looked upon Him and believed, will not die but have eternal life from God.
But surely now we can say, we do not see God, for Jesus is no longer here with us. He was there two millennia ago surely, but then He had been crucified and died, and had risen into His glory and ascended to heaven. We no longer see Him, and we were not there during His crucifixion. But yet, we are also saved, brothers and sisters in Christ. Why is this so? That is because in every Holy Mass, and including in today’s service, even though there is no consecration today, the Lord becomes really present in our midst, through the Most Holy Eucharist.
When the priest consecrates the bread and wine brought forth to the Altar, he in fact, reenacts the same sacrifice at Calvary, lifting up both bread and wine, but no longer just mere bread and mere wine, but in substance and essence completely transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord Himself. Do we all remember the time of our Lord’s crucifixion and death whenever we see these happening? Or are we too busy with ourselves and all of our busy schedules and thoughts to realise just how fortunate we are to have God Who really cares for us and Who loves us deeply?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we may feel sorrowful because the Lord our God Himself had died on the cross. We may feel sorrowful and dejected because indeed, how can we not do so, considering that our God Himself, our Lord, Master and Creator had died for our sake? Indeed, we are sorrowful because every single one of our sins had been borne by Him, without complaint, without objection, but only with the reply of a perfect love.
We are sorrowful because our sins are indeed the wounds that were inflicted on Christ. Every single lacerations, every single wounds are our sins, our slander towards one another, our lack of love, care and concern for the poor and the needy, our action in ostracising others, being unjust and biased against our fellow men, or by our jealousy, hatred and all the other things that had caused us to fall into sin. Do we realise just how much God loved each and every one of us, that He was willing to bear all of these, so that He can forgive us the multitudes of our failures and incompetence? And He never complained at all, as He made His way to Calvary!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, as we celebrate the Passion and death of our Lord, let us all spend time in prayer and contemplation. Let us remember every single moment that we have sinned, all the faults we have, all the jealousies and unbecoming attitudes we had shown in life, all of our slandering and wicked ways, and reflect on how much we have caused pain and sorrow for our Lord, as He bore that cross of our sins, on His way to save all of us.
Yet, let us also remember that, Good Friday does not stand by itself. Easter comes after Good Friday. And therefore, because we have shared in the death of our Lord, we also will share in His resurrection and receive eternal life, provided that we truly can come to the understanding of the importance of leading a good, just and upright life, sinning no more and turning ourselves and our ways completely to God.
Let us remember that vice versa, Easter does not come about without Good Friday. There will be lots of challenges ahead on our path. Jesus did not have it easy, and indeed He suffered in the most difficult of ways possible. And so, we too will suffer as He has suffered, and we will be tempted just as He had been tempted. Yet, if we do not lose our sight and focus on the light and hope that is to come, the joy of Easter, surely we will then be able to find our way to the Lord, and in the end, receive from Him the crown of everlasting glory.
May the Lord bless us all, forgive us all our sins, and may by His triumphant and victorious cross, reminds us always of our own daily crosses that we need to take up, that we may follow Him towards salvation and the glory of eternal life. Amen.