06Apr 6 April. Good Friday Liturgy

Isa 52:13-53:12. The prophet describes in detail the humiliations of the suffering servant of God, who carried the burden of the sins of his people. In his passion Jesus is crushed under the weight of man’s wickedness, and through his wounds we are healed.

Heb 4:14ff. We have in Christ a great high priest who understands us fully. Jesus experienced what it is to be a man while remaining sinless. By his sufferings he accomplished our salvation.

Jn 18:1ff. With dignity and strength, Jesus walks along the royal road to Calvary. Everything happened to fulfil God’s saving plan to glorify his Son for our redemption.

It is Consummated.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? … In the words of that haunting song, sometimes it does indeed cause me to tremble…. when I hear those words from the cross, “It is Consummated!”

Consummated – completed – achieved to the last degree – engraved forever on the memory of mankind. “I have come to seek and to save what was lost…. The Son of Man came, not to be served but to serve.” His life was one long act of loving service, and now it ends on a rocky hill outside Jerusalem’s walls, with a final act of total self-surrender to the Father, on our behalf. Nothing like it was ever accomplished before, and its fruits go on forever.

The marvel is that, in another sense, this hour of his death remains powerfully alive in the hearts of all who trust in him – this point of total, utter contact between us and almighty God. The utterly self-giving, loving, loyal spirit of Jesus at the point of leaving this world is shared and handed on. This is seen most clearly in the fervour of the saints, in men like Francis of Assisi, who bore on his body the stigmata of Jesus, or Paul of the Cross, who found in Christ crucified a vast sea of divine love, or Charles of Mount Argus, devoted to serving all who were troubled and sick, to share with them the love of Christ, or Mother Teresa, whose heart was so imprinted by the love of Jesus that she inspired many others to serve him in the poorest of the poor.

It is Consummated – because by his cross, He draws us all into contemplation of the grace and mercy of God in our lives in so many circumstances. As Joseph Mary Plunkett put it back in 1916, I see His Blood Upon the Rose

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

He shows us a new way to look at our lives, to appreciate God’s presence with us every step of the way, to see in all of nature the signs of a loving providence that is taking care of us:

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice-and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

Above all, his arms are forever reaching out to save and bless those who turn to him, wherever we are on life’s journey. Young or old, married or single, rich or poor, woman or man, Irish, Polish, Chinese or South African – all of us are there beneath his saving cross, and for us a stream of blessing flows out, to lead us to eternal life.

All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

Thank you, Lord! Thank you for your cross and Passion. It is indeed Consummated.

Why Jesus Took the Cross

Many people find it easier to identify with the message of Good Friday that with the message of Easter Sunday. Perhaps that is because we are all familiar with the way of the cross in some shape or form, whereas the resurrection remains to a great extent a future hope. Yet, were it not for Easter Sunday, the Friday on which Jesus died would not have come to be known as Good Friday. It is Easter that reveals the deeper meaning of the horrors of Golgotha. It is the light of Easter Sunday that makes sense of the darkness of Calvary. More that any of the other evangelists, St. John has allowed the light of Easter to shine upon the events of Jesus’ passion and death. We have just heard his telling of the story of those events.

The last words of Jesus in John’s account are, “I am thirsty,” and “It is accomplished.” The evangelist was aware that Jesus’ words, “I am thirsty” expressed more that just the physical thirst of a dying man. When a thirsty Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well, he said to her, “Give me a drink.” Yet, Jesus’ physical thirst for water on that occasion revealed a deeper thirst, and that was his thirst, his desire, to offer this woman, and her people, living water, the living water of the Spirit, the living water of God’s love. Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that this living water of the Spirit would become in her a bubbling spring that would well up to eternal life and that would enable her to worship in Spirit and in truth.

Jesus’ cry from the cross, “I thirst,” also expresses this deeper thirst in his life to pour out the living water God’s life, of God’s love, on all who look upon him with the eyes of faith. For the fourth evangelist, this is the meaning of the flow of blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus after he was pierced. The life-giving water of the Spirit of God’s love pours out from Jesus upon all who gather at the foot of the cross in faith, upon the mother of Jesus, the beloved disciple, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, upon all of us who approach the crucified and risen Lord with open hearts. Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus had issued an invitation to one and all, an invitation he continues to issue to all of us gathered here on this Good Friday, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”” We gather here this afternoon to drink again from those rivers of living water that flow from the heart of Jesus. We gather, conscious of that deep thirst in our own lives for a love that accepts us as we are, that forgives all that needs forgiving in us, that recreates and renews us, that empowers us to live as God meant us to live, to worship as God wants us to worship, a worship of life.

Our second reading this afternoon calls on us to be confident in approaching the throne of grace. In John’s gospel the cross of Jesus becomes a throne of grace. Jesus is lifted up in all his royal splendour, and from the throne of the cross he pours out upon all God’s scattered children the abundant waters of God’s grace and love. As we approach to venerate the cross in a few moments, we remind ourselves that we are approaching the throne of God’s grace, and, in doing so, we are assured, in the words of that second reading, that we “shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.”

Having approached the throne of grace, and having drunk deeply from the wells of salvation, we are called to become beloved disciples. That is the call of Good Friday. Like the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross, we are invited to look to Mary as our mother, to Jesus as our brother, and to God as our Father. Like that beloved disciple, we are called to open our hearts to the love of Jesus and to love Jesus and one another as he has loved us. Like him, we are called to recognize the Lord’s presence on the shore of our lives. Like him, we are sent forth to testify, to witness to the Lord before others. We pray for a few moments in silence that we would be receptive to the grace and faithful to the call of Good Friday.

First Reading: Book of Isaiah 52:13-53:12

See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.

Just as there were many who were astonished at him-so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals – so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

Second Reading: Epistle to the Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel: John 18:1-19:42

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said “I am not.” Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself. Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed. Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “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 guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfil what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

 


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