Readings: Isaiah 52.13-53.12; Psalm 31; Hebrews 4.14-16,5.7-9; John 18.1-19.42 (See the readings at usccb.org)
Text of the homily (please excuse the bad English! ;-))
There’s an interesting feature, I think, of just about any superhero movie, where the hero of the day – say, Spider-Man or Superman or The Avengers – where the hero or heroes recognize some sort of grave threat: a threat to their family, a threat to Lois Lane, a threat to the city, or even a threat to the world. And so the hero, often after some soul searching and character development takes that threat seriously and does battle with that threat. What that usually leaves us with is an incredible display of the latest in visual effects and heart-thumping musical scores – and, invariably, the hero comes out victorious. We can all go home, knowing that Gotham City is safe from The Joker, or whatever – at least until next sequel.
There are aspects of this that I find similar in this day of Good Friday, but of course on an infinitely greater scale. There is a threat in the world. A real threat. A threat that would deprive people of life for all eternity. That threat is sin that blocks us from God and from each other. God takes this threat very seriously. So he comes down here: Jesus, born in human flesh and blood. And he does battle with this threat.
He does battle, not with the latest in computer graphics technology, but by letting this threat of sin and of death wash over him. We’ve just heard how he takes upon himself all of human savagery and wickedness and betrayal and stupidity and ugliness and he’s nailed to a couple pieces of wood out of infinite love for his people. He takes what seems to the human imagination to be a complete failure – his death – and this turns into his greatest triumph. The power of love conquers all. The God who is love is utterly victorious! And so this day is a good day for us: Good Friday!
However, this raises a very important question: If Jesus takes my sins so seriously and if he takes his love so seriously so as to to go to the cross, then: how seriously do I take my own sins? How seriously do I take my own need for mercy? If you’re anything like me, it’s so easy – when our conscience, that little whisper in our minds notes that this thing we did – or that thing we failed to do… eh, it wasn’t that big a deal. No one was really hurt. Or maybe he or she had it coming anyway. And we rationalize our sins away. This is a temptation for me – for all of us!
“But” – in our first reading – “he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.” Jesus takes our sins seriously because he loves us so dearly, and he’s willing to die to save us and bring us life! How seriously do I take my own sins? More importantly: how seriously do I take God’s love and mercy for me?
Look at St. Peter. I love that guy. I can identify so much with him: He wasn’t perfect. He committed a pretty big sin today. And he takes it seriously – and more importantly he takes the mercy of Jesus seriously. And once Jesus returns, he receives that mercy and we now call him Saint Peter. The first pope. So also it is to be for us. We need to take our need for mercy seriously, so that we can, as the Letter of Hebrews says, “approach the throne of grace with boldness [and] … receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The great news of this day is that, in Jesus Christ, God made flesh, sin does not have the last word. His love and mercy do. In him, there is no need of a sequel or trilogy, like in the superhero movies, because he’s won the victory. All we need to do is accept his victory: to take seriously our need for mercy and to accept his mercy that’s so freely given.
Jesus did the hard work, in complete and utter love. When you look at the cross, see how much he loves you. See how seriously he treats our sins, out of love, because he wants us to have life, and receive the mercy that he gives. Get to confession, especially if it’s been a while. Receive his abundant mercy. He went to the cross to give it to you.
This is a day of the love of God. It is a good day. It’s Good Friday.
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