Good Friday 2020
Deacon Les Ruhrmund
We’ve come together this afternoon, all be it digitally during this time of pandemic and isolation, because we appreciate the significance of Good Friday; the Passion, death and burial of Jesus.
Not all professed Christians actual celebrate Good Friday; many keep their focus on Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection.
But the Church has been observing Good Friday since the first century and up until the fourth century, Jesus’ Last Supper, his death, and his Resurrection were celebrated in one single commemoration on the evening before Easter Sunday.
Since then, those three events have been observed rather over the three days recorded in scripture but are nevertheless celebrated as one continuous event; the Sacred Easter Triduum (the three days); Thursday evening to Sunday evening.
A simple way of explaining this idea of one event over three days is to consider sporting events. If one takes the Wimbledon tennis tournament for example; it is one event but it’s played over two weeks.
Celebrating only Easter Sunday is a little like watching the Wimbledon final and ignoring all the drama that went before that made the final possible.
The Cross is central to our profession of faith and is prominently displayed in every church and in many homes and worn on a chain around our necks by many of us, including myself.
We are sometimes questioned for our focus on the Cross.
The argument from those who don’t understand why we revere the Cross might be that Jesus was raised from the dead so why on earth are we celebrating his death?
We are not celebrating death, we are celebrating eternal life.
Dying on the cross, Jesus gave up his life that we might have eternal life; the perfect sacrifice of reconciliation.
Prior to the death of Jesus, we were estranged from God following that origin sin of rebellion and rejection when we as humanity decided that we could best determine for ourselves the difference between right and wrong; and we got it very wrong.
We are people of the Cross.
The Cross in itself has absolutely no significance apart from the One who died nailed to it on Good Friday. The Cross isn’t just a symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus; the Cross is the symbol of the salvation of the world.
In the book Miracle on the River Kwai by Ernest Gordon there is a true story of a group of prisoners of war working on the Burma Railway during WWII.
At the end of each day the tools were collected from the work party and counted.
On one occasion a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave and work himself into a furious frenzy and ordered the guilty man to step forward immediately. No one moved.
“You will all die!” he screamed, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners.
And then one man stepped forward and the guard beat him to death with his rifle. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again and no shovel was missing. That one man had given his life to save the others.
We don’t have to look far to see how capable we are of hurting each other.
Let us consider for a moment, Judas Iscariot.
Judas betrayed Jesus because he didn’t meet his expectations and it’s easy for us to condemn him. But he didn’t know with certainty at that time that Jesus was God and that he would rise from the dead. We do know – and yet we so often betray our calling as Christians.
We condemn people of different races, religions, cultures and sexual orientation because they don’t meet our expectations. Jesus loves and died for every one of them as he did for each one of us and asks us to love them too.
Or perhaps we have been betrayed by someone we love and trust; a Judas in our lives?
There’s a story or an ancient legend, that on the day of the final judgment, there is great rejoicing in heaven. Everyone is singing and dancing except Jesus who is standing quietly at the gates. Someone goes and asks the Lord why he is standing there, to which Jesus replies: “I am waiting for Judas.”
This story reminds us that Jesus never gives up on any of us. He is always ready to forgive even the one who betrayed him. We are called to do the same.
On Good Friday about 2000 years ago, we crucified the Son of God and incredibly, God still loves us.
Can you think of a greater example of unconditional love?
His love is more profound than anything that is in this world.
This afternoon we place our fears, our hopes, our gratitude and our love at the foot of the Cross.
Let us never be too embarrassed or proud, to wear the cross of our salvation, to venerate the cross of Divine Mercy and to thank God for Good Friday.