Good Friday homily 2012

Good Friday homily 2012 - as seen and heard on RTE

Dear friends

Greetings to all of you from St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh this Good Friday.

We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord according to St John. Now, at this 3.00 hour, we are at the heart of the Passion of Holy week. Shortly we will be venerating the Cross, the centre-piece of our Christian faith and the sign and symbol of this, the darkest of days.

Before we do so, I invite you to pause before the cross. If you have a crucifix before you at home or wherever you are at the moment, let us reflect for a few moments before it. There is one aspect of every Crucifix that is at once obvious and yet easily overlooked – and that is – Christ hangs alone.

Christ, as we heard just now, betrayed by Judas, abandoned by his followers, delivered by the chief priests and the elders, and handed over by Pilate to be crucified, now hangs alone amid much betrayal and cowardice. Jesus is all alone in intense pain, about to die.

What does this aloneness of Christ mean to us?

How often have we felt alone – perhaps at home, in a sick bed, in a hospital ward or a nursing home? At such times, with more time on our hands than we would care to wish for to reflect on our lives have we felt great isolation, fear and pain, with longing for someone to listen, or to keep silent company with us? How often we might feel let down by others, have felt pity for ourselves that no-one has come to visit us, that there is no-one who, we feel, really cares?

We do not have to be sick to feel alone. Loneliness, a sense of being neglected, forgotten, misunderstood, wondering if anyone could even be bothered to understand - these are often the dark thoughts and moods that surface when we are left for a prolonged period on our own in pain or sorrow.

Whatever form it takes, the Cross is the great rude awakening. The Cross introduces, or re-introduces you and me to the world of suffering to, what CS Lewis called, ‘the world of others’. I may, by way of example, be rudely awakened and shocked when I hear of a diagnosis of an illness, be it mine or that of someone dear to me.
The Cross often catches us unawares, and comes in many guises in your life and mine. At times, when reminded of the pain and suffering of others, we feel a sense of shame that we could be so caught up in ourselves, that we could be blind for so long to the plight of so many in our world. Taken up with our own agenda, the Cross seems to be an unwelcome intrusion into our cosy world as we experience the loss of the three things we all hold dear, namely our convenience, our comfort and our control, those temporary supports that at some point or other we all have to let go.
Some crosses in life are unavoidable. We can be reminded at a funeral of our impending mortality – and none of us are comfortable with that reminder.

But as we ponder today the cross of Jesus, it is not that we are celebrating an instrument of torture or pain. We are commemorating Christ’s suffering, his intense pain at all levels of His being – His prolonged mental, physical, emotional and above all spiritual anguish – endured out of love for our sakes. Nor are we trying to explain away suffering today. Rather, suffering is seen in all its naked awfulness on the Cross.

We are identifying today with the Cross, because Christ in His wisdom and love, chose the path of suffering and in doing so, identifies Himself with US in our pain, in our sense of being forsaken, in our thirst for others’ love. This is a great mystery.

Above all, what we are saying today is that WITH Christ there IS a reason to carry on. There is meaning, though hidden from our sight.

We all meet people with incredible heart-rending suffering. In the course of my ministry, in their suffering people have said to me: ‘Father, I never knew it could hurt so much.’ Others have confided to me, in their weariness: ‘Father, will it ever end?’ ‘Is there no end’, they ask, ‘to the pain of bereavement, to prolonged depression, of anxiety, of seemingly endless meaninglessness?’ More have asked amidst the scandals in recent times: ‘is there no end to this feeling of a sense of betrayal in the Church?’

The crucifix is BOTH Christ and the Cross – as Christians we come to the realisation, sooner or later, that we cannot have one without the other – Christ without the cross, the cross without Christ.

Jesus said: ‘if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross every day and follow Me.’ To be a Christian is, by definition then, to suffer, but not needlessly. As Christ and the Cross go hand in hand, then likewise to suffer without Christ present in the midst of great pain means that we suffer terribly alone and in misery. As one holy man, by the name of Saint Braulio, put it, ‘everything that happens in our lives without Christ is mere emptiness’. It is worth repeating: ‘everything that happens in our lives without Christ is mere emptiness.’

Therefore, it follows that with Christ, everything that happens has meaning.
There is something more. We are not meant to suffer alone.

Many of us today on Good Friday will also pray the Stations of the Cross. There we remember in particular those who accompanied Christ, even though they could not take the Cross away from Him. Let us be Simon of Cyrene to one another, bearing one another’s burdens; let us try to be like Veronica wiping away one another’s tears. Let us also practice the tender compassion of Mary and the faithful few by our silent presence to Christ in those who suffer in our midst.

Today therefore, throughout the Christian world we are following Christ to Calvary, but we are also acknowledging moments too in our lives when all is dark and bare and meaningless.

But be assured, viewers and listeners to this broadcast, of our prayers for you today here in Cobh. You are not alone.

Later this year we will be hosting the International Eucharistic Congress in June. The theme of the congress is Communion with Christ, Communion with one another. We are the Body of Christ –we belong to one another. We are all in this together. We are the one Body of Christ.

Finally, as we pause at the cross today, we know that the Cross is not the end. The light of Easter beckons ever so dimly in the distance. We are people of hope in the resurrection - that all pain comes to an end.

As Julian of Norwich put it: ‘all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.’

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