Homily: Good Friday
Friday 19 April 2019
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
It is striking how much of the Lord’s passion happened at night. It was at night that he foreshadowed his death in the Eucharistic last meal. It was at night when Judas stood before him offering a betrayer’s kiss. It was at night that he was arrested and presented to the religious and civil authorities. And even when it was supposed to be the blaze of a noonday sun, we are told in one of the gospels that from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, darkness came over the world as the Messiah died on a cross.
Darkness and violence seem to go hand in hand. Domestic violence is chiefly a night time concern. Accident and emergency is busiest at nights dealing with street and public violence. The putrid violence of abuse mainly happens in dark and hidden places. By and large modern warfare is waged under the cover of night.
Violence and evil have something to hide; they seek to obscure what is on the side of truth and goodness. It should be unsurprising that the night is their natural environment. Likewise, it should not surprise us that Jesus’ passion and death was wrapped in the cloak of nightfall and shadow.
Yet there is something strikingly odd about that particular time of darkness. John’s account of Jesus’ passion is almost devoid of the gruesome details that mark out the other gospel accounts of his death. Instead of the violence of crucifixion, John focuses our attention on the one who is being crucified. And in so doing, he shifts our attention onto what the death of the Son of God did to violence and evil.
For there was a light that lingered through the death of Jesus, a light that did not allow for his death to be overwhelmed by violence. His dying refused to be consumed by darkness; instead it shone out as a beacon. Not abandonment, but accomplishment. The violence of Jesus’ crucifixion is transfigured, along with the darkness that otherwise accompanied it.
What might we learn from this illuminating death? It was not for his own benefit that Jesus overcome the violence of evil in the world with the outpouring of his life. It was for ours. The light of the Crucifixion shone from the Crucified One, that we might see more clearly what in our own lives he died for: our darkness in need of a truthful light shone upon it; our violence – in thought or deed – in need of transfiguring.
On this day in which we recall Christ’s death, don’t forget what it is towards which we look. We look to the first light of dawn, and to the resurrection of the Lord. God’s first creative act was, let there be light. God’s first re-creative act is the same, let there be light. So, see, my friends, this death today; see a crucifixion that brings light and peace for you, out of darkness and violence. See the servant of the Lord who prospers, and we with Him.
For on him was laid the punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.