Homily for Good Friday 2014
My wife and I have been privileged to travel to the Holy Land. When we were there, the guide takes you to all of the main sites that one would imagine. We saw the Sea of Galilee, we went to Nazareth, had Mass at the Mount of the Beatitudes, Mass at Cana, Mass at just about at every site. But one of the most Sacred sites where we celebrated Mass was at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Looking back, I remember the comments that Martha had made about the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering, the streets that Jesus had to walk through in order to get to Golgotha.
She mentioned how narrow the streets were, obviously not built for cars, and in the first century you could maybe drive a chariot through them Martha. commented that she thought the Via Dolorosa would be different, more like the way we see them in the movies I guess. These were streets were lined with shops and homes and were full of people living their lives, going about their business, not paying attention to the number of pilgrims walking the road to get to Calvary. They had seen it every day of their lives, it was commonplace. So it was in Jesus’ day, crucifixions had become commonplace, they happened every day. Crucifixion was the preferred method of execution for those found guilty of a crime against Rome. The two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus may have stolen from a Roman citizen, perhaps from the Roman Armory in order to get weapons for the rebellion that was brewing. Perhaps they were even accomplices of Barabbas, who was released in place of Jesus.
Barabbas…..the revolutionary, the insurrectionist, the one who wanted to be free of Roman rule in his life. The name Barabbas is very telling to us. In Hebrew, the prefix Bar, means “Son of” as in when Jesus said to Peter, Blessed are you Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father. Peter was the “son of” Jonah. James and John were Bar Zebedee, or “son of” Zebedee. So who was Barabbas, this was not his proper name, but his title, or of whom he belonged to. Bar, “son of” Abbas, who was Abbas? We look at the word and we see Abba, or Father, as Jesus would say. We could say that the Jews were asking for the “son of” God to be released in order that Jesus THE SON OF GOD would be crucified in his place. So they asked that Bar Abbas, be released….we are Barabbas, we are the children of God, are we not? And yet, we cannot do what Barabbas tried to do. We cannot throw off the bondage that we find ourselves under the rule of. We are the convicted criminal, the convicted sinner that is released from that sentence of death because Jesus took our place, and thus freed us to live as we were made to live, as true sons and daughters of God.
The cross for us is not a symbol of defeat, not a symbol of death, but it is a symbol of Victory and Life. When we look upon the cross, let us be reminded of the price that was paid for our salvation, our freedom. I am reminded of the old hymn: When I survey the Wondrous Cross:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did ever such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Come let us venerate and reverence the Cross of Christ.