Homily for Good Friday 2007
Jesus could have had a relatively successful life as an itinerant preacher in Galillee. He could have been successful as a healer and spiritual guide. It would have been a simple matter to avoid healing on the Sabbath and avoid the hot bed of religious Jerusalem altogether. There are many people who offer similar kinds of "spiritualities" today. Methods of prayer and reflection and connectedness with creation that do help people live a healthy and fulfilled life. Jesus certainly shared that kind of deep contentment in his union with God and his friends.
Christianity is not an "easy piety", to quote John of the Cross. There came a time in Jesus life when he had to take a stand, as it were, if he was to remain true to his convictions about the mission entrusted to him by the Father. This led him into disagreement and conflict. And eventually the cross.
Crucifixion was invented by the Persians and taken up with enthusiasm by the Romans. It was an excellent deterrent for would be deserters, rebels and traitors to the Empire. It ensured a slow death with much pain and suffering. It is from this form of execution that we have our word "excruciating" to describe the worst pain. From the Latin it simply means "from the cross".
Many people have experienced that kind of suffering. It may be from grief or sickness of accident. But a Christian spirituality does not shrink from the challenge of that pain. Some things are only remedied by sacrifice. The ills of the world take more than and "easy piety" to fix. The ultimate fix is the salvation won for us by Christ's sacrifice and resurrection.
This day gives hope to all who suffer. The horror of the cross stands as a challenge to war and to all who would favour capital punishment or who seek resolution to problems by violence. This is called "Good Friday" with good reason. This innocent who was executed has shown us the way. The cost of love is the cross. We can have no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.