Homily for Good Friday

Homily for Good Friday, preached at St Barnabas Cathedral, Nottingham on April 15th 2022

Friday, April 15, 2022
Office of the Bishop
Right Reverend Patrick McKinney

Homily for Good Friday, preached at St Barnabas Cathedral, Nottingham on April 15th 2022

In a world where there is so much suffering, not just in Ukraine which is horrific, but in and through other wars, terrorism, famine, natural disasters, as well as through human abuse, exploitation and sheer neglect, many people do wonder how we Christians can believe in a God of love and mercy, or in the existence of any God at all!  Truth be told, many of us may well have experienced our own moments of doubt, particularly when we have experienced loss, grief, and suffering of one kind or another, either personally or when faced with that of a family member or close friend. For many people, what we gather to do this afternoon - to venerate the Cross of Jesus, might seem a little strange, even repulsive. But for us, his disciples, as we gaze upon the figure of the crucified Jesus, we acknowledge there, Jesus, the Son of God; one who does not hold himself aloof from the sufferings of his people. On the Cross we venerate God who does not just offer us sympathy, from the safe distance of heaven; but rather God who, in his love for all humanity, became a human being, Jesus, who revealed God’s love in his words and actions and, most especially, in his being willing to suffer and die on a Cross for us and all humanity, so as to  become our  Saviour. This is crucial, because if Jesus is just another man, whom human jealousy and injustice combined to destroy, then he is just another innocent victim, one more among millions of others down through the ages, as well as in our own time. If that’s all Jesus is, then he can offer us no more than perhaps an example of how to suffer without becoming bitter towards those who cause us suffering. If however, his wounds are the wounds of the Son of God himself, as indeed they are, then these wounds can speak to us, in our own woundedness, of a God who suffers with us, and who also promises us new life.


Today we venerate the Cross of Jesus, because he who shares in our humanity, our suffering, and death, has been raised up by the Father and so has overcome both suffering and death. We know we still have to experience suffering and death, but we know also that our faith in Jesus means that they no longer have the last word on our lives. Jesus did not just say to the repentant thief on the Cross beside him, ‘today I am with you on Calvary, bearing with you your suffering’. Rather, he said to him, ‘today you will be with me in paradise’. The sight of Jesus on the Cross, with us in our pain and suffering, is the promise of our healing, of the overcoming of sin in our lives. The sight of Jesus sharing our death is the promise of our sharing in his eternal life. So the mystery of the Cross is not about the glorification of suffering, but rather about its transformation. The one whom we venerate today, Good Friday2022, is the crucified and risen Lord, who reigns from and through his Cross; He is the one who offers hope to all who suffer and who, in their suffering and sin, look to him. Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, went through suffering and death, to risen life and glory, and it is our belief and hope that he will take us all on that journey with him. His wounds offer comfort and hope to all who suffer, and pardon and peace to all who have sinned. In the words of Isaiah, in our first reading today, “Ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried…he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53: 3-5).


Through his wounds we are indeed healed! When, therefore, we come to venerate the Cross of Jesus today, let’s bring  with confidence to the Cross, our own wounds, our suffering, our pain, hurts and disappointments. The sufferings of many of us here are, I am sure, often hidden from view and shared, if at all, only with a few. This afternoon let’s hold nothing back from our Crucified and Risen Lord. There are many kinds of pain, many ways in which we suffer: the pain of loneliness and an absence of support; the pain of being misunderstood, of rivalry, indifference and pettiness, or of being assailed at times by doubts about ourselves, about God. Indeed, sometimes the feeling of the absence of God in our lives can be more of a reality than his presence. That was certainly the experience of Mother Teresa in her later years. So let us not be afraid to acknowledge it. Let’s bring also to the Cross the grief, suffering and pain of the people of Ukraine, and of people all over the world who today are suffering as a result of warfare; the many millions of people forced to leave their homes and their country because of warfare and sectarianism, but also because of famine and other natural disasters. The Cross is, indifferent ways, very much a part of so many people’s lives.


Let us venerate the Cross, not just because Jesus knows first-hand the full horror of human suffering in all its aspects, and so he truly understands us and is indeed our brother when we suffer;  but, most especially, let us venerate the Cross of Jesus because God the Father has raised him from the dead; the victory over suffering and death is His, and so, as our Saviour, Jesus can say to us today, as he said to his first disciples so long ago, ‘In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (Jn 16: 33). A helpful phrase to carry in our hearts this Good Friday is this, Ave crux, spes unica, ‘Hail to the Cross, our only hope!’



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