Friday, April 22, 2011

Sunday is coming, but today is Good Friday!

NOTE: Tonight, as we celebrate the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion, our Deacon Ernie, will be offering the homily.  But I recently received a request from one of my former parishioner's in New Hampshire for a copy of the homily that I delivered on Good Friday in 2002.  It was at the height of the abuse scandal that has rocked our church these last years.  I thought it would be worth sharing here today:
Last year Deacon Gary left us on Good Friday with that powerful, yet simple reminder, “Today is Good Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” A reminder that although we do celebrate the Cross, the death of our Lord for us, we can’t look at that alone, we have to remember that there is always resurrection! But, one year later, we find ourselves as people, as priests, deacons and ministers – as Church – in a very different space. One that is leading us to a tremendous amount of soul searching, a tremendous amount of anguish and pain. I want to take Deacon Gary’s statement and give it a slightly different twist this year – Sunday’s coming, but today, today is Good Friday.

You know we sometimes have a temptation in our world to avoid the cross, to brush past it, to try and avoid any of the pain and hurt and difficulties that life will send our way. We can be tempted to jump right over this day, to try and move from the beauty of Holy Thursday, the wonderful gift of the Eucharist – and move right to Sunday and the feast of the resurrection – to avoid the ugliness of the cross, the horror of our Lord and God being nailed to that cross because we have sinned. Sunday’s coming, but today is Good Friday. We must be on that cross today. The Church and the priesthood is on that cross today.

My brothers and sisters, we don’t come here to commemorate something that happened 2,000 years ago, we come here to embrace something that we must do today, right now. That cross is not only the cross of Christ, it is our cross, too. We cannot reach the resurrection, unless we are willing to be placed on that cross, with all of our own sinfulness, with all of our own weakness, with the recognition that God alone can heal us and make us new again. Sunday’s coming, but today, today is Good Friday.

As a young priest I can tell you that never has my mission, and the mission of all new priest been more clear – God will need us to spend the next decades working diligently to restore faith and trust in His Church and in its religious leaders. It is a major task, but one that can be achieved by one thing – the public witness to a personal life of holiness. St. Francis tells his brother priests, “See your dignity my brother priests and be holy as he is holy.” But this is not to be a holiness of false piety and outward show, it is to be a holiness that shows a desire for the things of God, a devotion to the God’s Word, the Church and the Sacraments, and a quick willingness to be a person who seeks reconciliation whenever a situation requires offering or seeking forgiveness. And isn’t this the task of every Christian?

We can only accomplish these things however, when we willingly embrace the Cross. Fr. Joe stated so wonderfully boldly last night that we’re staying – he and I will continue to serve you and be your priests, we will continue to offer the sacraments through the grace of our ordinations. We, as I think most of us, wish these scandals would just go away. But, we have to remember that we have to spend that time on the cross first. We have to die to the sins of the past if we want to be raised and made new. Sunday’s coming, but today, today is Good Friday.

There is sometimes a tendency for us to not want suffering for ourselves or for others. But, we have to live the witness of the cross and believe in our hearts that suffering for God’s sake, in God’s name, can transform us and the world.

As we know, we don’t have to seek out suffering. It will find us. But, what we do with it makes all the difference. As Jesus says in the garden, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Just as Jesus could not avoid drinking from the cup of his passion, neither can we.
When we see that, and understand that, only then can we be open to the power that it has to change us. The word sacrifice comes from two Latin words that mean to be made holy. Let us remember that today, Jesus hangs on the cross, today the Church hangs on the cross, today the priesthood hangs on the cross, today we too individually must hang on the cross. Let us embrace that and make it an offering to God and be made holy.

Jesus has died for us on the cross. He has shown us the way. We must follow. The Church will be resurrected, the priesthood will be resurrected, our faith in our religious leaders will be resurrected – but only if we are willing and courageous enough to place on the cross all of the things that we each individually and communally need to die to.

My brothers and sisters, Sunday is coming, but today, today is Good Friday.

May God give you peace!

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