Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus dies with enigmatic words on his lips.  What does he mean when he says, “’It is finished’”?  What is finished?  Does Jesus have his life in mind?  Is he saying something like his apostle Paul who writes near the time of his death:  “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”  Perhaps he is only saying that his ordeal is ending.  He has been betrayed by a disciple, brutalized by the Roman soldiers, and finally crucified as a treacherous criminal.  Do we note a sigh of relief in these words?  No, that is not it.  Jesus means that he has completed the mission on which his Father sent him.  He has given himself as the sacrifice that achieves the forgiveness of the world’s sins.

Certainly this is the message of the first two readings.  Jesus fits the description of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah.  “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins…”  The Letter to the Hebrews is more explicit in referring to Jesus.  It says, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”  Jesus has made up for human disobedience by suffering and dying in obedience to the Father.

But we should not think of forgiveness as automatic.  We are not forgiven because we are humans or even because we are Christians.  No, we must acknowledge our sins and ask forgiveness.  Many of us have difficulty recognizing our sins.  We do not think we do anything worse than “telling white lies” or “having bad thoughts.”  Others admit that they have graver faults but justify themselves saying they are not adulterers or thieves.  This kind of thinking reveals the root of our sin in self-centeredness.  We live for ourselves and not for God. 

This year we are experiencing extraordinary circumstances.  The normal venue for acknowledging sins and asking forgiveness is not largely available.  What are we to do?  Live in fear that our sins may damn us?  No, that is not necessary at all.  We simply make an act of perfect contrition in our hearts.  We tell the Lord that we are sorry because we love him even more than ourselves.  We also promise to go to Confession as soon as possible.  Then, as sure as God will deliver us from the Corona-19 pandemic, He will forgive us our sins.