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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

GOOD FRIDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION
APRIL 19, 2019

Isaiah 52: 13-53: 12; Psalm 31; Hebrews 4: 14-16, 5: 7-9;
John 18: 1-19:42

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

We have also posted "First Impressions" reflections for all of Holy Week - 2019:

Last Sunday we heard Luke’s Passion account; today it is John’s. In the four gospels the passion narratives are very similar for the passion narratives are the core of the gospel message. Still, they stand in stark contrast to one another; each evangelist presents a unique perspective on the last day’s of Jesus’ life and their meaning for us.

Today, in John, we hear another perspective of the Passion and the role Jesus plays in it. Throughout John’s narrative Jesus is not a victim-sufferer, but a royal personage. For example, instead of his being on trial, John describes Jesus as fully in control. In fact, all the others in the account seem to be the ones on trial, Pilate, Jesus’ failed followers, the religious leaders and the crowds. Starting with his arrest in the garden, right up to his death, Jesus shows a calm and in-charge demeanor. Notice how many times in John’s account Jesus is described in royal terms, even when he is being mocked by the soldiers and Pilate.

One can even describe Jesus’ cross less as an instrument of execution and more as a throne from which he rules. From his cross he directs the care of his mother and utters a final triumphant cry, "It is finished!" He decides the moment of his death and in the end he is victorious - from his cross. In John’s gospel, Jesus’ death is a "glorious" death. There is no emphasis on his extreme bravery, or that he is accomplishing a difficult task. Jesus’ death is in an entirely different category of death. God is accomplishing a great work in Jesus, something we cannot imitate or achieve on our own. From the cross we are freed from sin’s evil power over us and death is defeated.

John is showing us that we are the beneficiaries of what God is doing. We are like heirs, on the receiving end of Jesus’ glorification on the cross. We like to think of our selves as a "do-something people." But not here. John isn’t asking us to meditate on Jesus’ pain and imitate his suffering, in fact, these are almost entirely missing from the story. Nor is our human sinfulness stressed, or our guilt evoked – even though Peter denies Jesus three times and the other disciples (except the three women at the foot of the cross) abandon him. There certainly would have been ample opportunity for John to be quite graphic about the infliction of pain on Jesus. (Mel Gibson did it in his movie, "The Passion of the Christ.") But John does nothing to stir up our feelings for the suffering Christ. Instead, he writes his Passion in such a way that all through it believers are moved to utter the cry Thomas, the Doubter, will when he meets the risen Lord, "My Lord and my God."

The trial scene before Pilate is central in John’s account. The focus of the discussion is Jesus’ kingship. For the Romans, anyone claiming kingship would be considered seditious, a rival to Caesar. Pilate surrenders Jesus to the religious leaders and the crowds when they challenge Pilate’s attempt to free Jesus. "If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar." But king he is and nothing seems to happen in this Passion story without Jesus allowing it. The innocent one take’s on our sin and guilt and he willingly accepts that role; no one is forcing him to do this. He will suffer in our place and, as a result, we will be the heirs to new life.

We can’t isolate this day from what we celebrated on Holy Thursday, or will celebrate on Easter. These three days of the Triduum are of a piece. There can be no credible reflection on the Passion outside the context of the Resurrection. We are not celebrating three separate days, a chronological replaying of past events. While each of these three days has its uniqueness, they can’t be isolated from one another. Good Friday preaching, for example,is not supposed to draw on people’s emotions, or stir up guilt for "what we have done to Jesus." John shows that Jesus, with full knowledge and control, willed to die for our sins. So, we are not grieving his death. This day, even with its somber tones, evokes joy for what God has done, in Jesus, for our benefit.

The cross should be no surprise to anyone who has been attentive to John’s gospel up to this point. John told us that the Word became flesh; in Jesus we encounter the loving presence of our God. But darkness could not bear the Creator of light and so the forces of evil start early to try to quench the light. While God was revealed in all Jesus said and did, it is the cross that is the fulness of that revelation, for gazing on the cross reveals what we heard earlier in John, "God so loved the world that God gave the only Son...(3:16).

Today the cross is completing the picture of God’s love for sinful humanity. When Jesus dies blood and water will flow from his side and he will "hand over the spirit," and the church will be born. We celebrate Good Friday and we wait for the full story to be spoken on Easter, when Christ appears to his disciples and breathes his Spirit on them, empowering them to continue his work of revealing the gracious face of God to the world.

We will venerate the bare cross today. It is both a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and it is also a symbol of his triumph over death – his resurrection. What Jesus accomplished on the cross is made present to us, as we hear the Passion proclaimed. We are attentive listeners today, faithfully receiving the story and allowing it to continue its work of redemption in us. With the gift of the Spirit we, the church, will live Jesus’ self-giving life. We will give ourselves to those who need us and confront injustice and sin in whatever guises they present themselvesjust – as Jesus did.

The cross we raise high today and come forward to venerate, links us to one another in this community. We support and stand with those who are in pain or undergoing great sacrifices in order to be faithful Christians. We pray for those undergoing trials and even death, for their faith. In the name of the cross we believers give our lives away in loving service to those in need. Each time we make the sign of the cross and trace Jesus’ cross on our bodies, we are reminded that we live under the sign of the cross. Like the women who stood company at the cross with Jesus in his agony, so we too keep vigil with those who are grieving, afflicted and dying. The sign of the cross also reminds us that Jesus is no stranger to our pain and loss. The prophet Isaiah helps us see the role Jesus, the Suffering Servant, fulfills for us, "Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured...."

Christ has taken to the cross our weaknesses and our dyings; our acts of cruelty, injustice and pettiness; as well as our own mortality and fear of dying. What a paradox the cross is: through death, life has been given us. So, we venerate the cross before us today and we mark ourselves with the sign of the cross, renewing our faith in the transformation that continues to take place in us through our hearing the story of our salvation in Christ.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041919.cfm

QUOTABLE

There is no defined ritual "beginning" for the liturgy of Good Friday. The liturgy of this day, even when that liturgy includes the celebration of morning prayer, is a continuation from the night before...and will be continued as well on the next "day." Rather than a solemn, embellished, ritualized procession to mark the beginning of the liturgy, everyone simply assembles. To assemble–in silence– marks not only the nature of Good Friday’s liturgy, but appropriately connotes the character of the day. A silent gathering, especially for an assembly that ordinarily does so with song and movement and strict beginnings and endings, will have a powerful effect on those present. The silence on Good Friday is a solemn silence, and if achieved it will provide a strong basis for the liturgy that has marked this day for centuries. The community enters a silent space, a space bare and stripped of distraction and clutter and gathers in expectation, begun during the night before as they departed; and this expectation gains momentum in silence and in numbers as those assembling increase.

—Anne C. McGuire, LITURGICAL MINISTRY, "Holy Week," Volume 13, Summer 2004. (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, page 125)

JUSTICE NOTES

A JOURNEY OF HOPE

Since the founding, the United States has received immigrants from around the world who have found opportunity and safe haven in a new land. The labor, values, and beliefs of immigrants from throughout the world have transformed the United States from a loose group of colonies into one of the leading democracies in the world today. From its founding to the present, the United States remains a nation of immigrants grounded in the firm belief that newcomers offer new energy, hope and cultural diversity.

Our common faith in Jesus Christ moves us to search for ways that favor a spirit of solidarity. It is a faith that transcends borders and bids us to overcome all forms of discrimination and violence so that we may build relationships that are just and loving.

----Excerpts taken from "Strangers No Longer, Together on the Journey of Hope", A Pastoral Letter Concerning Migration From the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States.

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Kevin Golphin #0591301 (On death row since 5/13/98)
  • Tilmon Golphin #0590940 (5/13/98)
  • Gary Greene #0155512 (6/1/98)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:  http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

 

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626


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