Deacon Cornellís Homily

Readings:    Isaiah 52:13—53:12
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Passion according to John
Date: April 7, 2023, Good Friday, Cycle A

Two nights ago, many of our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrated the first Seder of Passover. At one point in one form of a Jewish seder, the youngest child asks the question, "Why is this night different from all others?", followed by questions about the specific ways that the seder meal is different from other meals. In some Jewish traditions, these questions are so important that even if one is forced to celebrate the Passover meal alone, he or she is to ask themselves the questions and answer them. What a great way to remember that our faith is handed down primarily from one generation to the other by the answering of questions. I suggest that this tradition would be very appropriate for our Good Friday liturgy.

Why is Good Friday different from all others? I would like to reflect on two aspects of this difference with you. Why is there no Mass on this day when there is on every other day in the year? What does Good Friday reveal to us in a special way that connects us to all our Eucharistic liturgies every other day?

Why is there no Mass on Good Friday?

Since the Mass is a participation in the sacrifice Jesus made on the first Good Friday, you would think that this, of all days, should be a time we celebrate mass. But the Mass is not simply a participation in that sacrifice. Among many other things it is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. If we "do Mass right", if we celebrate the Eucharist fully, for a few moments we step outside of time and experience what it is like to participate in the fullness of that loving relationship we call Trinity. In heaven there will be no Mass because we will already be at the heavenly banquet. We will be enjoying the fullness of the fruits of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. We will not need to receive Christ under the form of bread and wine because we will be in the presence of the risen Christ in our risen bodies. Today we pray, we gather to celebrate, "as if". As if the kingdom of God, the fruit of Christ's sacrifice is already here; as if we already stand, with the penitent thief in the presence of Christ in heaven. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, "the sign is no longer needed when the reality appears." So today we gather to celebrate as if we are now perfectly joined to that Paschal Mystery.

What is revealed in a different way at our Good Friday liturgy?

Today we open ourselves to the mystery of what it means to call Jesus Lord. Our gospel acclamationtoday echoes what we heard in the Passion when Jesus said "I am" to the crowd Judas brought to arrest him and they all fell to the ground. Taken from that great hymn in Phillipians 2 we sang: "Because Jesus was obedient to the Father, to death, even death on the cross, God gave to Jesus that name that is above every other name", which in that passage is followed by "so that at Jesus' name every knee should bend,in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. "

The name that Paul refers to in this passage is the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. In the written Hebrew scriptures, it is referred to as the tetragrammaton. Since ancient written Hebrew did not have vowels, it was written as the 4 letters YHWH. The only time that name is pronounced was on the feast of Yom Kippur, when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and pronounced it. Anytime it was read in scripture, the reader would substitute the word Lord: Adonai in Hebrew, Kurios in Greek, or Domine in Latin. Just as Jesus' pronouncing that name to the crowds who came to arrest him stunned or shocked them, hearing that 'Jesus is Lord' should stun or shock us or induce awe in us.

God was God and Father even before time, before creation, but God only became Lord when creation came into existence so that God had creation to be Lord over, so that something existed that God has dominion over. In the Trinity there is no Lord or servant, all 3 persons are equal. So in some awesome sense, we creatures are the thing that make God Lord. And if that was not awesome enough, from the very beginning, God has chosen to share that dominion with humans. From the beginning, in the book of Genesis we read that God brought the animals to A'dam, the earth creature, so that Adam might name them. Naming in that culture was a very clear sign of dominion over the thing being named, which is why a devout Israelite would never speak God's name as if he or she had any dominion over God. And we must remember that dominion is not the same as domination. Dominion is, for example, what parents have over their new born child. If they don't take care of that child, that child will die. But if they exercise that dominion with love, that child will grow and flourish. That is the dominion that God exercises over all creation, and it is the dominion that God has shared with us humans.

Today our liturgy focuses us on the single most humanly understandable exercise of God's dominion over us: Jesus, fully God and fully human, emptying himself of both his divinity and his humanity on the cross for you and me, for us and for all creation. At our baptism, and week after week after week at our conscious participation in the sacrament of Eucharis,t we are formed more fully into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ who is Lord. It is not enough for us to use our tongue to confess this but we just also bend our knee, join our actions and life to what we say.

So in a few moments when we come forward to symbolically "bend our knee" in veneration of 'Jesus is Lord', remember that we are gathered here to do this because Jesus suffered the humiliation of people bending their knees to him in derision, that we name him Lord because Jesus suffered the humiliation of having that sign tacked above him on the cross that named him king. Let us symbolically fall to the ground with full consciousness and intent at our confession that Jesus is Lord, our Lord, my Lord.

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