Homily for March 2018 Holy Hour
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
On Sunday we heard Jesus say, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23). As I said on Sunday, “the hour” where his glorification starts in his Passion and leads to his resurrection.
God did not pick just any hour for Jesus’ Passion. He picked the time of the Passover. As our first reading states, God placed the Passover at the head of the Jewish calendar. In the Passover, the story of God leading them out from Egypt is celebrated with the sacrifice of lambs. Now, our sacrifice is not the sacrifice of animals but that of Jesus himself.
Tonight, we are just eight days from the beginning of the Easter Triduum. In less than four days we will become our celebration of Holy Week with the blessing of the Palms and the reading of the story of Jesus’ Passion.
On Sunday, we will hear Mark’s version of the Passion. Then, on Good Friday, we will hear John’s version. So, rather than read the whole Passion tonight, I selected these five verses from Matthew’s telling of the Passion to lead us into a discussion of what is depicted in the Stations of the Cross. Tonight, I want to look specifically at stations #10-12.
In what I just read, Jesus is stripped of his garments. This is depicted in the 10th station. The stripping is part of the mockery they show to Jesus. Imagine standing naked for all to see. It would have also made the scourging worse as the cords hit bare flesh. It was humiliating and painful. Yet, Jesus endured it for us. He did it so we would not have to bear the punishment for our sins.
I want to take this image of Jesus naked and reflect on what it is that we wish to cover up. On the surface level, I don’t imagine any of us want to stand unclothed before a crowd. That would be humiliating and/or defy all modesty but that is not the “exposing” that I want to look at now.
Picture yourself standing before God. He is looking at you but not at your physical body but at your soul. Your soul is fully exposed for God to see. He can see the love you hold in your soul. He can also see your sin. Your sins are fully exposed before God. How embarrassing! But we do not need to fear this! Jesus comes to take away the sin of the world!
Next, let us turn to the 11th Station where Jesus is nailed to the Cross. Nails are driving into his hands and feet as he is hung upon the Cross. Imagine the pain of the nails being driven through your flesh and bone. Imagine the weight of your body on the Cross pulling against the nails. How terrible!
Who is it that drives the nails in? We generally blame the Romans and/or the Jewish officials for this. If this was strictly a human activity the blame would fall to them. Yet, we know that Jesus’ life wasn’t really taken from him. He freely handed it over. He did so for our sins.
Some of you are probably familiar with Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. In an interview, Mel Gibson talked about the scene where the nails were driven into Jesus. In making the movie, Mel Gibson made sure he was the one who drove the nails in as he knew it was because of his sin that Jesus gave his life. Are we any different?
Now we turn to the 12th Station where Jesus dies on the Cross. Jesus endured so much for us. How can we call it Good Friday? Because of the “good” it accomplishes, our salvation. This is the purpose for which Jesus came.
If you read the latter part of chapter 11 in John’s Gospel (verses 45-53), you hear about the Sanhedrin plotting to kill Jesus. In that conversation Caiaphas said, “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish” (John 11:50). He said this to justify their plot against Jesus. He was right but not in the way he thought.
Now, I hope I haven’t depressed you too much talking about how badly Jesus was treated. Jesus did this willingly because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). The love Jesus shows is what we need to focus on.
God sent Jesus to die for our sins out of love. It was out of his love that God set his people free from slavery in Egypt. It is out of his love that Jesus sets our free from our sins. This action of Jesus’ love is what makes Good Friday “good.”
We must never forget the sacrifice that Jesus makes for us. It is not solely an action of the past.
Look at the altar!
What do you see?
Do you see a piece of bread on display? Stop looking with your earthly eyes!
What is upon the altar?
There have been those who think Catholics make a false idol of the bread in the monstrance but our adoration tonight flows from Jesus’ own words at the Last Supper. He held the bread and proclaimed, “This is my body that is for you…This cup in the new covenant in my blood” given up for us.
The belief in the Real Presence of Jesus is not a human invention. It is from Jesus’ own words.
What does this have to do with Good Friday? At the Last Supper Jesus speaks of his body and blood being given up for us. When are they given up? On the Cross. So, hearing Jesus’ words, “do this in memory of me” every time we celebrate Mass, we celebrate the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. As we gaze upon the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance tonight, we see God’s love.