Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Homily: The Passion of the Lord (Good Friday, Year A)
As of this morning, 94,807 people worldwide have died of coronavirus. Our Australian figure is 53 people. These are sobering numbers, which we have become accustomed to hearing over the past few weeks. Why do these numbers matter to us? Because each number is a person whose story has ended, each a person loved by another, each a child of God.
There is another reason why these numbers have come to feature so prominently in our daily lives: suddenly we can see the real possibility of ourselves – or someone close to us – included among that number. The reality of death has not changed in this time of contagion, but our awareness of its presence – and the price it extracts – has changed.
At the time of Jesus’ death, similar calculations could have been made as to how many people died of crucifixion throughout the vastness of the Roman Empire in any given period. His death would have added but a single number to that much larger number of lives lost, stories finished, loves ended.
The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth in Jerusalem around the year 33AD is a well-known fact. Eyewitness accounts of his death and written records of the time all testify to this historical reality. A similar factual account of his bodily re-appearance for some days after his death can also be ascertained from eyewitness and historical records. Jesus Christ died on a cross and arose from a tomb.
But like the ‘facts’ of the lives lost to coronavirus, the ‘facts’ of Jesus death and resurrection do not tell us what we desire to know. Facts might tell us about what happened, but they cannot help us to know what it means. They do not tell the story that matters.
The story of the death of Jesus is eternal in its purpose, while utterly human in its unfolding. It is a life given up for the sake of giving it over to all other lives. It is a decision of no greater love than to lay it down for friendship’ sake. It was a path trod alone and in the depths of human darkness, so that we may never be alone but may live in his light.
The story of the death of Jesus is the story of accepting a kiss of betrayal from someone he loved; of speaking up for the truth in the face of expediency; of carrying the wounds of scattered disciples and the malice of the baying crowds; of giving his mother a son, and his brother a mother; of acknowledging at the end that the purpose of his living had been accomplished.
We proclaim a crucified Christ. It is not the known facts of this reality that really matter. Rather, it is the life which was lived faithfully, the journey undertaken in hope, and the love which was given to the very end. May the telling of this story find an echo in the telling of our story.