Good Friday Homily 2018
Sister Esther Fangman O.S.B.
On Sunday in Mark’s Gospel, we heard Jesus tell the apostles that one of them would betray him and that Peter would deny him. On Tuesday from John’s Gospel, we heard one of them will betray him and again the prediction that Peter would deny him. On Wednesday in Matthew’s Gospel, we are once again reminded that one of the apostles would betray Jesus and that Peter would deny him. And today in the gospel of John, the story of this reality is carried out—Judas betrays Jesus and Peter denies him three times. Why would Jesus break bread -celebrate the Eucharist—with Judas who would turn him over to his enemies and Peter who would deny him three times.Why would Jesus wash the feet of the one who would betray him and the one who would deny him? Why would Jesus give himself to us in the Eucharist when he knows that we too will continue to deny and betray him in our lives? Why? Not only does Jesus continue to give to us; but as the prophet Isaiah says in the first reading today, he also took on our sufferings, he bore our infirmities. And again, the Lord laid upon him our guilt and it was his to bear. He is the one who will take away the sins of many and win pardon for our offenses. Why?
It really is John’s Gospel reading last night that gives us insight into the “why.” John says that Jesus loved his own in this world and loved them to the end (John 13:2.) It was love for Peter, for Judas and for us that compels Jesus to bear our guilt and to forgive us even before we have asked forgiveness. This inner conviction in Jesus lays claim so profusely he cannot not do it.He is compelled.I struggled with the word “compelled.” Was there a stronger word? “Driven.” The more I thought about this, I became aware that it may not be a verb like compelled I am looking for, Rather maybe it is a noun. He was love. Perhaps Jesus, as he begins his journey to the cross, is in the midst of a mystical experience. He has one foot in this world and one in the next. He sees as the Father, he knows as the Father, he loves as the Father. He is love at the last supper when he creates the Eucharist when he sees the future. When he can look directly at Peter or Judas, He looks as the Father does. He and the Father are in this mystical experience now one. So love penetrates the scene.
We have a modern-day example of this in the example of the seven Trappist monks killed by extremists at the Monastery of Notre Dame of Atlas in Tibhirine, Algeria. You may remember a movie was made of them called “Of God and Man.” This past January, Pope Francis declared them martyrs in the Church. Brother Christopher, who was the leader of the monastery in Algiers, wrote a letter to his family and friends several months before he and his brothers were killed. In the letter he says:
I should like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.
This conviction comes from a mystical experience where one sees differently, knows truth because it is and loves differently. He is like Jesus, when even before he was murdered, he prayed and forgave those who would harm them.In fact, one of the 7 who was a doctor probably tended the injuries of those who later kill them.They are Jesus washing the feet of “the enemies,” loving them and forgiving them even before the event of their being kidnapped and put to death. Mike Campos, a PhD graduate from the Graduate Theological Union, said it this way when describing the monks of Tibhirine
In the end, these monks didn’t so much ‘give up’ as ‘give themselves over’ to the mystery of loving. Thus they chose to stay. They chose the possibility of death as the consequence of their larger responsibility to love. There’s great freedom in this.”
We have Jesus choosing because of his love to bear the sins of all. We have the monks of Algiers choosing because of their love of the Muslim people of the area and the love of God to give up their lives for them.
If we are to bear the cross with Jesus and be willing to give up our life and die, we must be open to mystical experiences where our seeing, our knowing, our loving is Godlike.