April 14, 2017
Paulist Fr. Rich Andre preached this homily for Good Friday on March 25, 2016 at St. John XXIII Parish in Knoxville, TN. 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.
There are probably several people in this room right now who have cancer, and probably the majority of people in the room have a loved one who is suffering through this dread disease as we speak. And so, we’re used to asking: Why me? Why now? Why did God allow this to happen? Could I have done something different to prevent it?
On January 2, 2015 in Science, the well-respected peer-reviewed research journal, a paper was published that claimed that two-thirds of cancers were simply cases of bad luck – these cancers were not due to genetics or lifestyle choices.
A year later, on January 7, 2016 in Nature, another well-respected peer-reviewed research journal, a paper was published claiming the opposite. According to these researchers, 70-90% of cancers were caused by extrinsic factors.
So, which is it? Are most cancers due to bad luck, or are most cancers due to factors that we may be able to control? When we or a loved one receives a diagnosis, we spend a lot energy wondering if it’s bad luck, bad genes, bad environment, or bad choices. Can we do anything to change the outcome?
In the same way, we can ponder the presence of sin and evil in the world. Can our actions prevent sin and evil? Or are sin and evil simply part of the world?
As John’s Gospel makes clear, on Good Friday, Jesus Christ was in control of his destiny. He had the power to escape, yet he chose to submit to a handful of Jewish leaders and the callous Roman government. He was a gifted orator, yet he chose to remain silent. He was God, yet he endured the worst of human beings.
Why in the world did God decide that the best way to show us his love was to have his only-begotten Son be betrayed, arrested, tortured, and killed?
At a time when our world seems to be falling apart – when terrorism is a growing threat, when our nation seems poised to choose a president between two people who are each reviled by a majority of Americans, when a Christian genocide is under way in many parts of the world, even while Christians bicker among themselves – we ask ourselves, what was accomplished through Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday? Sin and death are still with us.
We may never understand why we suffer, but Good Friday assures us that God endures the trials, the persecutions, and the swords alongside us. God is not remote. God named his Son ‘Emmanuel,’ meaning “God with us.”
Sin and death are still with us, too, but Good Friday changes our relationship with sin and death. Because of Good Friday, we know that God is always with us. God’s grace will always triumph over sin. And more importantly, because of Good Friday, we know that death is never the end of the story.