Good Friday 2017
"Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help." With these words of encouragement and hope, the Letter to the Hebrews invites us to look upon Christ Crucified with confidence, asking him for every grace and blessing. In the Old Testament, we read how God comes close to his people, entering into a personal relationship with each one of them. He becomes their friend: how much more with Jesus. Think of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well or of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Through his Incarnation, he has destroyed the barrier between God and Man. "To have seen me is to have seen the Father."
We see this clearly in St John's Passion, in which Pontius Pilate plays a particularly important role. He is a tragic figure, finding Jesus innocent and wishing to release him, yet he is scared of the mob and frightened of losing his job. Instead of listening to his conscience, he acquiesces to the demands of the crowd. He knows what is right and does what is wrong. He is a coward and his only excuse is that empty question, "Truth? What is that?" Yet, even he has courage to say, "What I have written, I have written." With that imperial inscription in three languages, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," ironically he acknowledges the truth about Jesus. In every lie there is an element of truth. There are world leaders today who say they are Christian, yet act in a totally unchristian way. Pilate is alive and well.
In St John, the women who follow Jesus to Golgotha stay close to him and not at a distance as in the other gospels. His aunt, Mary of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala are mentioned by name, but not his mother or the beloved disciple. "Woman, this is your son. This is your mother." Here we have a different aspect of the new Israel, the Church, constituted in the new Exodus of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. At the Last Supper, the Twelve were present, but now at Golgotha it is his mother and the beloved disciple. Jesus brings them into a mother-son relationship and thus constitutes a Church, which is a family of disciples and friends. It will be the beloved disciple who discovers the empty tomb and Mary Madgalene, the Apostle of the apostles, who first sees the risen Lord. The Church is not only hierarchic, but a community of believers, who love one other and constitute God's family.
Finally, when Jesus bows his head and gives up the spirit, we meet another group of followers, who make up the Church of Christ. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea embrace the body of the dead Christ and prepare it meticulously for burial, laying it to rest in a new tomb in a garden. We are reminded of that garden where it all began, the Garden of Eden.
Christ invites us all to come to him with confidence and become his friends. In heaven there is room for each one, Peter and the apostles, his mother and the beloved disciple, the women who followed him from Galilee, Simon of Cyrene and Veronica, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, even Pilate and his soldiers, the scribes and Pharisees, and Judas, such is the loving mercy of God. We must never forget that, on Good Friday, two mothers mourned the death of their sons, Our Lady and the mother of Judas. "Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more." Today we approach with confidence the throne of grace, the Cross of Jesus, to receive mercy from him and find grace in our every need. To Him alone be given honour, glory and thanksgiving, now and for ever. Amen.