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)
Homily text (more or less; there may be slight alterations in the recorded version):
One of the questions that I often get around this time of year, especially when I’m talking to younger people, especially elementary students is this: Why is this day called “Good Friday?” I mean, we just heard a horrible story! Jesus being betrayed, and mocked, and scourged, and crucified, And here we go, calling it Good Friday.
Ultimately this day is Good because it is about love. And it’s about salvation.
Let me use a bit of an analogy. Saskatoon’s a city of bridges. We’ve got 5 driving bridges and a couple of rail bridges across the South Saskatchewan River. They function reasonably well, as far as I can tell; they connect both river banks and east and west sides of the city. They carry the loads and do what they’re designed to do.
But there’s one other bridge in this city, that’s not really so much of a bridge any more. It’s the Traffic Bridge, built in 1907, which has since been condemned and lately they’ve been imploding different spans and removing them. This bridge doesn’t function as a bridge any more. It doesn’t connect with both river banks. It doesn’t fulfill its designed purpose.
What’s our designed purpose? What’s our reason for existing? St. Augustine wrote so well about this. He reflected profoundly on his life and on how he struggled to find meaning and purpose, until he found his Lord, and he wrote: Our hearts are made for you, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. We are made for a profound relationship with God. We are made to experience a deep connection between our humanity and the God who loves us into being.
But unfortunately the human race lost its connection with its Creator. Because of sin, we human beings are like the Traffic bridge that’s lost its connection with the river bank, and imploded, not with dynamite but under the weight of our sins. Our hearts are often restless. Our sins diminish us and make us less than we were made to be.
Thanks be to God for this day! This is Good Friday! God saw this state of affairs. He knows our sins; he knows how by our sins we separate ourselves from him. So God hatched a rescue plan. In the fullness of time he came as one of us. And he literally reached out and touched the face of sinful humanity. On Good Friday, in a love so overwhelming, so complete, God took upon himself all of the worst of human sin and human cruelty and human suffering and human frailty, and he let it wash over himself and nailed it to the cross. He physically reached into the abyss of death and sin in order to pull us up to life.
Jesus is our bridge to the glory of heaven. He is God and human and he is the bridge that spans the gulf between sinful humanity and the glory of our Father in heaven.
Let this sink in today! Jesus reached into death to save me from my sins. Jesus died to give me life. What can I do but give thanks! What can I do but give thanks and reach out and grasp his outstretched hand, and let him lead me to life?
Good Friday presents all of us with the most profound invitation. It’s an invitation to life, because he went to death. It’s an invitation to take the next step with our crucified and risen Lord. He understands our condition. He gets us. And he’s with us in our suffering and in our sin. Let’s take this opportunity today to step out in faith, to let him lead us across the bridge to new life.
In a few minutes we’re going to enter into a powerful ritual. For me it’s one of the most poignant moments of the entire year. First we’re going to pray some ancient intercessory prayers — the same prayers prayed in Roman Catholic Churches throughout the world. And then we’re going to bring out a cross. And we’ll have the opportunity to gaze upon that cross and even to touch the wood of that cross.
As we do this today, keep in mind what he did: what he did for me, and for you, personally, by name. He poured out his life in love. He took all of our shame upon himself. I’ve said this quote a number of times, but it bears repeating. Author Mark Hart says so beautifully: You have a God would rather die than risk spending eternity without you. Jesus bridges the gulf between death and life, between sinful humanity and the Father’s glory. Let him be your bridge to life today.
You and I are loved more than we can know. That’s why this is Good Friday.