Father Rick’s Two-Minute Homily for Good Friday,
April 7, 2023, John 18: 1 – 19:42
How Much Jesus Loves Us.
“He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” “There was no more terrible death than death by crucifixion. Even the Romans regarded it with a shudder of horror, and Cicero declared it was “the most cruel and horrifying death.” Tacitus said it was a “despicable death.” It was initially a Persian method of execution.
The Persians used it because they believed the earth was sacred, and they wished to avoid defiling it with the body of an evildoer. So, they nailed him to a cross and left him to die there, looking to the vultures and the carrion crows to complete the work. The Carthaginians took over crucifixion from the Persians, and the Romans learned it from the Carthaginians” (William Barclay).
Strangely, someone hanging on a cross can inspire awe and respect. The distance of 2000 years from this form of public execution can soften its blow for us. When Pilate hung the inscription above Jesus, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” he made a buffoon of our Lord as He hung under it.
What can anyone find attractive in someone hanging naked on a cross fastened by nails through His hands and feet? Such a spectacle of someone dying such an excruciating death robs that person of all human dignity. As if crucifixion wasn’t enough, it not only killed the criminal, its purpose was to kill the meaning and purpose He held in people’s minds and hearts.
Its horror was meant to shock people with a lasting memory. “He looked like a worm, and not a man, someone to be derided” (Isaiah). Jesus gave up every ounce of dignity he had as man and God.
We can understand why many people, including His disciples, abandoned Jesus when they knew He was going to the Cross. Only a handful of people, primarily women, stayed by Him as He hung from the Cross for three hours. Peter’s denial lets us understand how embarrassing it was to be associated with Jesus during His Passion. He threatened their safety. Killing His disciples would end His movement. I’d be scared too.
Abandoned and alone, Jesus embraced our sinful state in His Passion. It’s undoubtedly not the horror of the Cross that attracts us. It’s His love for us when we are at our worst. It’s the hope that with his help, we can finally turn things around, no matter how bad they get.
It would be good today to take stock of all that Jesus sacrificed as He hung upon the Cross. What makes me worth it for Him to give up so much?
Let us ponder the words Jesus spoke to St. Faustina, “Behold the Heart that loves so much and is so little loved in return.”
Ignite the Fire
Fr. Rick Pilger, IC