CACINA

Homily for the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Good Friday, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on April 12, 2014

Homily for the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Good Friday, Year A  2014

Last evening we celebrated the Last Supper of Jesus and the Apostles where Jesus gave us the Eucharist in memory of him, foreshadowing the events of today. We saw how John’s description focused on the washing of the feet and how Jesus became a servant to his disciples and asked them to do the same. I wonder what sense it must have made to the apostles at the time. Could they really understand what was going on, what Judas would do, what would happen to Jesus?

The readings from the liturgy today pick up and follow through on the two main themes from last night, particularly the “servant’ theme. The reading from Isaiah is particularly appropriate especially when when read backward. Knowing what we know happened let’s us look at Isaiah’s prophecy in a very different light, and what was not understood fully becomes so clear.

Take, for example, the opening of Isaiah today: “See , my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high.” Taken in its context, but without what we know of Jesus’ death, it would seem that this person who was a servant or slave, very low on the social scale, would be lifted up, raised to a position of high authority. This man that Isaiah prophesies would not be an attractive man when he was a servant – no-one would even look at him. he was “despised and rejected” in fact. Not only was he rather ugly, he was infirm, having had many of the sicknesses of the day. Yet, Isaiah says, this is the one that God will raise up, after he has experienced all the infirmities of people. God allowed him to suffer, to be crushed with pain – a scapegoat for the “transgressions” of God’s people, bearing on himself the sins of the Hebrew nation. God laid all this on one servant who was totally undeserving of all that happened to him.

In Isaiah’s terms, he was describing a person who has done no wrong, but because he was serving others, would take on the results of the sins of the nation and suffer for it. In so doing, he would be like the animal that is sacrificed, an innocent creature whose death atones for the sins of the nation – perhaps a difficult concept for us to understand today, but quite a common understanding in Isaiah’s time. By the sacrifice of this servant, Israel would be made clean again, and the servant will make many righteous because of this sacrifice. The spotless person, taking on the sins of the nation, is thus able to intercede the Hebrew case to God.

This made some sense in Isaiah’s time, though clearly it was a prophecy that seemed to refer to some sort of savior or messiah that was unlike the typical idea of the time of a warrior messiah who would sweep down and conquer the Israeli enemies.

But when we look backward, when we look at it with eyes that know what eventually happened, we see how accurate the portrait is of Jesus, how he was the sacrificial lamb, the unblemished servant who bore the sins of the world, how he was ‘despised ‘by the Jewish authorities and ’rejected’ even by his own followers’, put to death on a cross that did indeed raise him up high, but not in the way most would have interpreted Isaiah, and finally, through his death and resurrection, he has been “exalted”. There isn’t a word of the Isaiah reading that we can’t apply to Jesus, as we see how in God’s inimitable way, he acted out the suffering servant of Isaiah and in so doing was able to make many righteous again.

Jesus acceptance of this, his great giving of himself to the Father, is played out when we read our psalm today backwards.  Imagine Jesus as the speaker of today’s psalm, and the psalm takes on such meaning. “Into your righteousness deliver me” and “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” The psalmist’s description of himself is the description of Jesus the servant as well – a “horror”, “scorned”, a “broken vessel”. And then the redeeming words – words that redeem all of us – “But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, ‘You are my God.’”

When we get to the reading from Hebrew’s we need to look forward from Jesus. Jesus has already died and been resurrected, and Paul now tries to understand that death and resurrection, to piece together the puzzle parts from Hebrew scripture and from the events of jesus’ life and try to understand what was really going on. He notes Jesus’ obedience tot he Father, his prayers to the Father, his perfection from sin, and finally his through his death he brought salvation.

Obedience and servitude – not qualities that are thought much of today. Society rebels against those concepts. But as always, God’s ways are not our ways, and if Jesus is preaching a kingdom of heaven beginning today on earth, we are being presented with a way to achieve this kingdom today. It is only by lowering ourselves – spiritually, by seeing our helplessness and need for God; emotionally, by trusting implicitly in God’s will; and physically, by obeying God’s commands and becoming a source of help for others, truly serving them.

I let the Passion reading today speak for itself because it is the center point, the point from which we look back or look forward, the point where all things changed, the climax of God’s long trip with us, the tragedy that became to the most glorious of events by redeeming us, and the moment where Jesus is exalted and lifted up, and he is very high. So let us not see this cross, this instrument of torture, as something to be embarrassed about, but as something that raises up and gives glory both to Jesus and through him to us. I close with the final words of today’s psalm: “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord”.  He will be back again on easter Sunday in full glory. 

And this is the incredible Good news of our salvation through Jesus Christ.

Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - Teaching the Church Year”]

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