God-With-Us
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by Paulist Fr. Rich Andre
April 20, 2019

Paulist Fr. Rich Andre preached this homily on Good Friday, April 19, 2019, at St. Austin Parish in Austin, TX. The homily is based on the day’s readings: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Psalm 31; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; and John 18:1-19:42.



This homily is chiefly inspired by Gail R. O’Day’s commentary in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995).

[Look back at the crucifix.]

From everlasting to everlasting thou art God
Beside thee we have no king, redeemer, or savior,
No liberator, deliverer, provider
None who takes pity in every time of distress and trouble
We have no king but thee.

[Look at the people.]

Good Friday will never make complete sense to us on this side of heaven’s gate. As we contemplate the mystery of Christ’s passion and death, we may gain some spiritual insights from time to time, but we will never fully comprehend what appears to many people to be a stumbling block and foolishness (cf. 1 Cor 1:23).

This Jesus of ours – the Jesus who is the light of the world, who found hope in the doubting Pharisee Nicodemus, who found good in the outcast Samaritan woman, who found blessing in the man blind from birth, and who found promise in the death of his friend Lazarus – this Jesus also spoke of judgment. As he told his disciples, “on the last day, the word that I have spoken will serve as judge.”

On Good Friday, the world judged Jesus Christ. But at a deeper, more cosmic level, Jesus judged the world on Good Friday.

Yes, Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death, but Pilate is reduced to a fool in the process. He asks questions without getting answers to his satisfaction. He plays political factions off of one another in a desperate attempt at political survival. He scuttles back and forth between Jesus inside the palace and the Jewish leaders outside. By the end of the trial, it is Jesus – dressed in royal robes – who literally sits in the judge’s seat.

And those people whom St. John calls “the Jews”? John is not usually referring to the entire nation of Israel, or even to the entire local Jewish community, but rather to the handful of religious leaders who felt threatened by Jesus. On Good Friday, those Jewish leaders get what they want – Jesus’ death – but at what a price! At the end of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, they boldly declare, “We have no King but the emperor.” In their rejection of Jesus, the Jewish leaders have rejected the God and King of which they will sing that very night during the Passover seder: 1

From everlasting to everlasting thou art God
Beside thee we have no king, redeemer, or savior,
No liberator, deliverer, provider
None who takes pity in every time of distress and trouble
We have no king but thee.

But the significance of Good Friday is not about judgment. Good Friday penetrates much deeper into our fundamental identity as children created by God.

There are two impossibly uncomfortable questions at the heart of Good Friday: How could God allow Jesus to die at the hands of the evil of the world? Why would God allow this? Good Friday defies our comprehension.

Notwithstanding our discomfort on Good Friday, we can console ourselves with this great truth: God understands our suffering. In the person of Jesus, God experienced the betrayal of a trusted friend. In the person of Jesus, God was rejected by the very people who supposedly worshipped him most fervently. In the person of Jesus, God was rejected by civil leaders. He was insulted, beaten, and crucified for reasons that, in human terms, seem petty and meaningless.

On Good Friday, Jesus was with us in the midst of suffering. And for the nearly two thousand years since then, Jesus continues to be present with us in our suffering. During World War II, I am sure that Jesus was among those who were condemned to the concentration camps and gas chambers. Seven years ago, as I held my dying father’s hand, I knew that my father was the wounded Christ in that hospital bed, sweating profusely, shouting incoherently, and writhing in pain. We may never understand why we suffer, but Good Friday assures us that God endures the trials, the persecutions, and the swords alongside us.

On Good Friday, Jesus judged the world.

On Good Friday, Jesus suffered for the world.

But neither of those ideas touch on the most fundamental truth of Good Friday.

On Good Friday, Jesus judged the world, but he did not condemn the world.

On Good Friday, Jesus suffered for the world, but he did not punish the world.

On Good Friday, Jesus loved the world.

We cannot lose hope in the world, not even on this day when we recall the evil of which the world is capable in graphic detail. Because when God created the world, God called it “good.” And when God created us, God called us “very good.” On “Good” Friday, we celebrate that, despite our many sins, God loves us with an unbounded, relentless, incomprehensible love. We are fundamentally, quintessentially good, and God loves us with a magnitude infinitely greater than the power of sin or death. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

[Look back at the crucifix.]

From everlasting to everlasting thou art God
Beside thee we have no king, redeemer, or savior,
No liberator, deliverer, provider
None who takes pity in every time of distress and trouble
We have no king but thee.

  1.  Wayne A. Meeks, The Prophet King: Moses Traditions and the Johannine Christology, as cited by O’Day.