Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Homily - Seven Words of Christ

On the Seven Words of Christ from the Cross

The 1st Word:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a)
Look at Him as He hangs upon the cross.  He is a horrific sight – a bloodied and beaten mess of a Man.  Don’t turn away – look at Him, for it is our sins that put Him there.  And, as you’re looking at Him, listen once more to the first word He utters from the cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He’s praying for you and me.  Even from the cross 2,000 years ago, Jesus has each one of us in mind.  “Father, charge each sin to Me; forgive them. Place each transgression upon Me; forgive them. Though I be forsaken by You, I petition You, forgive them.  Forgive the Jew and the Gentile, the Pharisee and the pastor, the infant and the aged, the slave and the free, the rich and the poor, the male and the female, the hooker and the virgin, the African and the American, the sick and the well, the fearful and the courageous - Father, forgive them all!” 
Dear friends in Christ, the Father has heard the prayer of His Son and has accepted His death as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.  You see, even as the Son utters this prayer, He is in the process of fulfilling it, for it is through His holy and precious Blood that our sins are washed clean.  You, dear friends, are forgiven of all your sins because Christ died on the cross for you.  And, in a few moments, you’ll be invited to come to the Table of the same Lord who hung on the cross for you.  As you receive this Blessed Sacrament in repentance and faith, you’ll receive tangible proof that you’re forgiven, for you’ll receive the very Body He gave up for you and the very Blood which pours forth from His sacred veins and into the Chalice.  And, you will receive this very Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  This is most certainly true!  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen. 

The 2nd Word:  “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43)
Because you are forgiven, you do not have to receive what your sins deserve.  You deserve God’s wrath and punishment.  You deserve eternal torture in hell.  You deserve to be like the rich man who spends eternity begging for a drop of water upon his parched tongue.  But, you don’t have to experience this.  Neither did the rich man.  Neither did the two thieves hanging next to Jesus on the cross, for Christ has taken what you deserve upon Himself and paid the price for your sins in full. 
Yet, like the rich man, one of the thieves hanging next to Jesus is now spending an eternity in hell, thirsting without being refreshed, suffering without relief.  Why?  Why is it that he languishes in the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth?  It is because he refused to repent.  He rejected Jesus.  He mocked and ridiculed Him.  He would not put his trust in the One who prayed to the Father for his forgiveness.  Therefore, he died, and not just physically upon the cross, but eternally in hell, where he is still dying; still paying the price for his sins, a price he’ll never be able to pay in full.  So it is with all who refuse to repent and reject the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Learn to follow the way of the other thief, dear friends.  Jesus announces to him that he would be in Paradise, not because he was better than the other thief, not because his sins were somehow less vile, but solely because he feared God, repented of his sins, and placed his trust in Jesus.  Repentance is the key; it always is.
Therefore, repent, dear friends.  On this Good Friday, as you meditate upon the suffering and death of your Savior, do not lose sight of your sins.  Instead, see them attached to Jesus, as the very cause for His crucifixion.  Fear God!  Be sorry for your sins and confess them.  And, trust in the Lamb of God who takes your sins – indeed, the sin of the whole world – away.  Then, dear friends, is the same beautiful Gospel Jesus spoke to the repentant thief yours, and you can rest assured that you, too, will reside with Jesus and all the saints and angels in Paradise.    

The 3rd Word:  “Woman, behold your son!  [John], behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27)
There is more to this third word than meets the eye.  Yes, Jesus commends His mother to John, the “disciple whom He loved.”  He loves His mother.  He wants her to be well taken care of when He departs this vale of tears.  But, why John?  Why not someone in His immediate family?  Because He loves His mother and is not only concerned for her physical welfare, but her spiritual welfare.  He chooses John because John will not only see to Mary’s physical needs, but her spiritual needs.  He chooses John to be Mary’s pastor.
But, there is even more to this third word than meets the eye.  For, you see, Jesus is not just speaking to Mary and John here, but to all of us who would follow Him.  Mary symbolizes the Church, and John symbolizes the Apostolic Word and Sacrament Ministry which would both establish and preserve the Church.  Thus, in love, Jesus commends His Church to this Apostolic Word and Sacrament Ministry and the men He would call to serve in this Ministry to the Church. 
Rejoice, dear friends in Christ, for you are loved by the Savior so much that He makes provisions for your spiritual well-being, even from the cross 2,000 years ago.  He gives you a pastor to preach the Gospel in its purity to you, and to administer the Sacraments according to His Divine Institution.  In this way, He continues to show you that you are loved.  And, He will show you that love until the Day of His Glorious Return, for He will never forsake you, but will be with you always, to preserve you in the one, true faith through His Holy Word and Sacraments, that you may know with all certainty that you have forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Oh yes, dear friends, you are truly loved by the Savior who died in your place; the Savior who richly provides for your spiritual well-being.  In His Name.  Amen.

The 4th Word:  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  (Matt. 27:46)
“Not Forsaken!”
Many a Christian has stumbled at this fourth word of Christ from the cross.  They’ve searched for some deeper meaning here, because, after all, the Father and the Son are One, which means that the Father could not possibly forsake the Son. 
And yet, this is exactly what happens.  God the Father does forsake God the Son on the cross.  He abandons Him completely.  He will not help Him at all.  And, God the Son will not help Himself.  He allows Himself to be abandoned.  He humbles Himself to death, even death on a cross.  He puts aside His Divine Nature and suffers in His Human Nature.  He will not even use His Divine Nature to remove the pain, as He well could.  He bears the excruciating pain every step of the way.  He must, else our sins remain.  He must allow Himself to be forsaken by the Father and, more than that, to be inflicted by the Father’s wrath and punishment.  You see, it is not that the Father is absent.  He is there.  But, He is there to torture His Son, that His Son would experience an eternity in hell for those six hours on the cross. 
And, all of this is done, my friends, for you!  Listen to this fourth word, for here you have set before you the full, literal Gospel; the incalculable price which has been paid for your redemption.  The Son is forsaken by the Father and afflicted with all the Father’s furious wrath in your place, for your sins.  He experiences hell so that you don’t have to. 
Therefore, learn from this fourth word of Jesus from the cross the extent of God’s love for you.  No matter what you suffer in this life, God will never forsake you, because He forsook His Son.  As St. Paul says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9).  Why?  Because Jesus has been crushed, left in despair, abandoned, and destroyed in your place.  And, because He has, you are not forsaken, nor will you ever be.  In His Name.  Amen. 

The 5th Word:  “I thirst” (John 19:28)
This fifth word from the cross proves what we concluded in the fourth word, namely, that Christ is experiencing the thirst of being in hell; the agonizing and eternal thirst that cannot be quenched; the agonizing and eternal thirst that all sinful human beings deserve to experience.  As Jesus hangs on the cross, having been forsaken by the Father and cast into the pit of hell, He suffers the agonizing and eternal thirst that you and I deserve to suffer for our sins, my friends.
Yes, it is true that Jesus is physically thirsty.  But, that’s not why He utters this fifth word.  He does so to fulfill Scripture (cf. Ps. 22:15, 69:2-3, 21) and to alert us to the fact that He is suffering hell in our place.  He also does so not to quench His physical thirst, but to enable His parched mouth to utter His final words loudly and clearly for all to hear.  
Dear friends in Christ, take comfort in this fifth word, for because you’ve been washed clean by the water that flows from the Savior’s side into the baptismal font, you’ve been given faith to believe in the One who suffered eternal thirst in your place, and, as you abide in Jesus’ Word, living out your baptismal lives in daily repentance and faith, you have the sure and certain guarantee that you shall never experience the agonizing and eternal thirst that is suffered in hell.  The same Lord who suffers hell in your place continues to come to through His means of grace to quench your hunger and thirst by His Holy Word and by His very Body and Blood in the Holy Supper; to fill you with the living water he promised to the Samaritan woman at the well, the water that completely quenches spiritual thirst and wells up to eternal life.  Thus, you are refreshed in every way.  All your sins are forgiven and you are dressed in the everlasting holiness and purity of the Savior who thirsted in your place.  Your spiritual thirst has been fully quenched and you will one day reside in Paradise will you shall never hunger or thirst again, either physically or spiritually.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

The 6th Word:  “It Is Finished!” (John 19:30)
The most beautiful and meaningful word ever found in any human language throughout history is the Greek word, tete/lestai (tetelestai).  This is the sixth word our Savior spoke from the cross just before He committed His spirit to the Father and breathed His last.  Tete/lestai!  It is usually translated, “It is finished,” but it literally means, “It has been and forever will be finished, accomplished, completed.”
But, what does our Savior mean by this?  What is the “it” which has been and forever will be finished?  It is the salvation of the world!  When Jesus cries out, “tete/lestai,” “it has been and forever will be finished,” He’s saying that He has successfully completed the work necessary to bring salvation to the world.  He’s saying that the promise given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is fulfilled in Him.  He is the Promised Seed of the woman who has completely crushed the devil’s head.  He’s saying that He’s accomplished what Israel and all sinful human beings were unable to accomplish, for He lived the perfect life and fulfilled God’s Law completely.  He’s saying that all of the sacrifices required by God pointed forward to and have their fulfillment in Him, for He is the ultimate, once-for-all, sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Oh, this is Great News, my friends!  This is why this Good Friday is called “Good.”  “It is finished!” is the most beautiful and meaningful word ever spoken because it assures us that our Savior finished all the work necessary for our salvation.  All the work!  There is nothing, not one thing, not one iota of a thing, nothing, left to be done.  The work of salvation is completely finished.  The Law of God has been completely fulfilled.  The Sacrifice required for our sins has been paid in full.  There is nothing left for us to do.  Our Lord and Savior has done it all for us.  He lived the perfect, sinless life we can’t live.  He took the scourging upon His body that we deserved for our sins.  He took the nails through His hands and feet that should’ve been driven through our hands and feet.  He suffered agonizing and eternal thirst in hell, dying the death, both physical and spiritual, that we deserve to die.  And, because He did it all for us, there is nothing left for us to do. 
And, because we have been given the faith to believe in Christ, we are forgiven because it is finished.  We have eternal life because it is finished.  We are saved because it is finished.  We need fear nothing in this world because it is finished.  We need not doubt because it is finished.  We need not despair because it is finished.  We need not be saddened by our Savior’s death because it is finished.  We need only rejoice now and always because it is finished.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

The 7th Word:  “Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit!”  (Luke 23:46)
“Death of Death!”
Because Christ has completely finished the work of the world’s salvation; because the suffering is done and the price is paid in full, His last word from the cross is one spoken in confident faith, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” 
The Son who cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” is no longer forsaken, and He knows it.  Jesus Christ is the Faithful One.  Even though He’d been completely abandoned by His Father to suffer all of His wrath and anger, spending an eternity in Hell upon the cross, our Lord and Savior never wavered in faith.  He is our perfect Substitute right up to the end.  He knows that, as He breathes His last breath and dies to defeat death for us, He will completely fulfill His Father’s will.  He was forsaken, but not forgotten.  His perfect faith allows Him to cry out in a loud, clear, strong voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.”  And, as He breathes His last breath, the sin of the world, our sins, every sin that ever has been committed by anyone at anytime, all the sins you’ve committed in the past, all the sins you’ll commit tomorrow, five, ten, even twenty years from now, all the sins you’ll commit right up until you breathe your last – ALL SIN, from the white lie to the brutal rape and murder – ALL SIN dies with Him.  He takes the sin of the world into the grave with Him and buries it there.  He defeats the devil, wins forgiveness of all sin, and accomplishes the death of death!
And, we know this, dear friends, because we know the rest of the story.  We know that our Lord’s dying request was granted by the Father, for we know that the tomb was empty on Easter morning.  The Father accepted the Son’s sacrifice on the cross – the empty tomb proves it!  He rose and lives forever, proving that sin, death, and the devil have been forever defeated.  And, because He is risen and alive, you who believe in Him will rise and live forever with Him in Paradise, for your spirit will be committed to the Father, who will receive you with joy!  In the Holy and Precious Name of the Savior who accomplished the death of death for us.  Amen.   

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dear Reverend Thomas


I would like to start by asking you two questions. One: Can you give an accurate definition of the phrase: "Lamb of God"?

We all know that this is one of the names used for Jesus, like Messiah, Savior, Son of Man, or Christ. But exactly what is the importance of the name "Lamb of God"?

And why is it important to me as a Catholic? The second question I would like to ask you is: Why the Catholic Church would offer The Holy Eucharist every day at every Mass throughout the world in over 3000 languages.

What knowledge do they have that would make them feel compelled to do this for thousands of years? In answering this question, we'll see why the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.'" (CC 1324)

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