An act of unparalleled love - Good Friday 2016

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > An act of unparalleled love - Good Friday 2016

Today we gather at the hour on which our Lord and Saviour died on the cross – 3pm. Our liturgy is marked by solemnity, simplicity and silence.

It is the day we commemorate the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This commemoration is not just about remembering the passing of a great and holy man. It is not about anguish over a cruel act of injustice.

It is about the incomparable act of the Most High God. It is God himself – Jesus Christ, Son of God - who offers himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. It is the good shepherd prepared to lay down his life for his sheep. We are faced with an incomprehensible mystery.

When Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God cries out to his Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” we hear these words as not just a reference to the cruel executioners, but as words that apply to all of humanity, for all time. They are words about each of us. They are words that refer to the sin of mankind – the constant stream of sin, of evil, of hatred, of cruelty, of selfishness, of lack of love. They refer to my own sins.

It is the sin of humanity that has horribly disfigured the face of man. There is now such ugliness in so many lives. There is such pain and hurt. It is the sin of humanity that has wounded the human spirit and allowed human history to be so marked by evil. It has cast a deep wedge between a creature made in the image and likeness of the Creator and the God who gave life to humanity as a singular act of love. When God created humanity what he saw was very good, yet humanity betrayed this love. Man turned from honouring the source of life and love and sought a selfish path, a path of destruction.

Each human life has so much promise, so much possibility. So too humanity has so much promise, so much possibility. However, sadly, the opposite occurs. There is such hurt, such suffering, such pain, such fear in human life. It is on a global scale as witnessed by the horror of events in Belgium. It is in acts of individual violence.

This is day that reveals the response of God to the broken and wounded human condition, a condition destined for destruction. God chose not to condemn or destroy as his justice had every right to do. God chose to manifest the ultimate expression of his profound love for humanity, for every individual human being. God has let mercy flow upon humanity, undeserving as it is. The Father whose heart is a heart of love for humanity has asked his own Son to offer his life up in an atoning sacrifice. In the face of evil, mercy has flowed as a life-giving stream. The floodgates of mercy opened and poured forth from the heavens. Divine mercy was God’s response to sin.

God in Jesus Christ took on our human condition and though sinless himself absorbed to himself the full sin of humanity and in the dying agony of crucifixion cried out, “Father, forgive them”.

His prayer was heard and by his wounds we are healed. This act of ultimate self-giving love set humanity free from the price we should pay for our sins: death and separation from God. In the death of Jesus is the promise of healing, of restoration, of hope and of salvation.

This is the day to ponder this extraordinary act of God, realising that his suffering was for us, each of us. It is an act of unparalleled love. It defies our human understanding. We are left speechless before this mystery.

In a few moments a veiled crucifix will be solemnly carried into the cathedral. As it is unveiled we are invited to gaze upon the cross. The words of the liturgy invite us: “Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world”. We respond, “Come let us adore”. Then we have the chance to venerate the cross. We come forward to the cross.

We can venerate the cross by a touch or a kiss, by a genuflection or a bow. Let it be a special moment between ourselves and Jesus who died for us. Let us lay open our hearts, desiring to receive the grace of redemption. Let us allow ourselves to receive the love that God has for one of us even in the midst of our own sinfulness and weaknesses, our pain and woundedness. Let us open our hearts to the mercy that the Father has for humanity and for each of us.

Indeed at the moment of veneration we could pray: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner”. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. Today let us venerate the cross of Christ, moved by a profound sense of the mercy and love of God towards each of us and towards humanity, and make this moment an expression of our personal act of faith and gratitude.

Archbishop Julian Porteous Friday, 25 March 2016