Friday, April 3, 2015

His Forgiving Love Makes All Things New - Homily for Good Friday

He was arrested, imprisoned, scourged, mocked, beaten, nailed to the cross, and mocked again.

Jesus longed for this. That might sound odd, but yes, He longed for this moment. Many months ago, while He was with his disciples, Jesus took them aside and said to them: “I have a baptism [a cross] with which I must be baptized and how I long for it to be accomplished!” (Lk 12:50). He had been aching for this moment for so long.

And why?

Because He longed for all people to know the love He has for them. To publicly profess that He was head-over-heels in love with us—with a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things—with a love which never fails—even here, even now. To have us know beyond any doubt that He loves us with a love stronger than death!

This day isn’t simply about our sins. It’s about a foolishly-in-love God publicly professing His love to His beloved. That’s why we call this Friday “Good.”

His Love

Many saints have said that if Jesus had to die a thousand times to show us his love, He would have loved us enough to do so. St. Alphonsus Ligouri noted that had it been necessary for Jesus to hang upon the tree until the day of Judgment—and just for you—he would have done it. Because Jesus loves you more than He suffers!

He didn’t have to do it this way, to suffer and die. But how else was He to show you His total love? Total love is not content with giving flowers or rings or extra moments of fleeting time. Love, when it wants to make itself known, looks for the best way to show itself to the beloved. And the best way is that total gift of self which gives everything … and keeps nothing for Himself.

This is what Passion means. Passion comes from the Latin, “patior,” which means “I suffer.” We get words like patience and compassionate from this. Those who love, love with passion, patience, … suffering.

No greater love does a man have than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.

His Forgiveness

But here’s the scandal: Jesus loves His enemies. Let us consider that for a moment.

How many had spoken falsehood in the presence of the Truth? How many had pulled on the beard of their Savior? How many had profaned His Holy Name and spat in the divine face of Man? How many had consented to the crucifixion of God?

And for all this, our Lord still says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Father, forgive them.

But, they do know what they are doing! They know that they are killing this man!

No they don't. They have no idea that the One they are killing is Love Himself. The very incarnate, beautiful, embodiment of Love itself.

“Father, forgive them.”

This is a prayer that extends to this very day. A prayer that extends to the Middle East as we see ISIS killing Christians like Paul did so long ago. Jesus turns and prays, “Father, forgive them.” As we saw the events of Ferguson play out this past year, Jesus continued to intercede by praying “Father, forgive them.” As human dignity continues to be undermined by the way people and institutions treat the vulnerable, especially the unborn, Jesus looks to the heavens and cries out—not muttering under His breath—but by crying out prays: “Father, forgive them!”

Jesus, of all people, knows the depth of the harm done: for “whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” Each day, with each new wound to humanity, Jesus Christ Himself is crucified.

And yet He prays, “Father, forgive them.”

Do you see His love?

His Line in the Sand

Consider the man next to Jesus, the “good thief.” The thief was justly condemned for he had done much evil in his life. But in that last hour of his life, he asks Jesus to simply remember him. "Love.... love, remember me."

What does Jesus say? Does Jesus brush him aside? Does Jesus hold resentment in his heart?

No. Jesus tells the man, “Amen, today you will be with me in paradise!”

An entire life of sin and death overthrown by just one moment of God’s forgiveness! Can you imagine?

God’s love is a love that would allow any repentant sinner to enter into Paradise. Consider that. Any. repentant. sinner. Even the one who hammered the nails into Jesus’ feet. Can you imagine Him as numbered among the saints?

Jesus’ forgiveness is more powerful than any of our sins! More powerful than your sins and mine. More powerful than all of our sins here in this church! More powerful than all of the sins of humanity—not only since Jesus’ coming, but since the beginning of time!

Yes, there is hope for all of us! Yes, all of us! Even at the Eleventh Hour! Because, you see, as Jesus embraced His cross, He saw you and He saw me. He saw our sins. Every last one of them. And He embraced the Cross anyway. He saw our lukewarmness. And He embraced the Cross anyway. He saw our meanness and resentment and doubt and indifference—and He embraced the Cross anyway.

Because what does Love want? Us. And because Love wants us, He draws a line in the sand between us and evil. This is what forgiveness does. Forgiveness draws a line in the sand and says to evil: “You shall go no further. You have no power over a heart of love.”

It is a line that we need help drawing so that we might love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. Father, help us to forgive as you forgive us!

He Makes All Things New

Let us consider one more person at the crucifixion: Mary.

At the crucifixion, Love would meet Love’s Mother. In the movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” this moment is captured as Jesus falls. Mary sees her son fall, just as she had seen Him fall when He was but a small boy. And just like when He was small, Mary in this moment runs to Him and embraces Him and says to Him, “I am here.”

Jesus, in response, says, “See, I make all things new.”

I make all things new…

This is what love does. This is what forgiveness does. It makes all things new. Evil is conquered by love. Sin is conquered by forgiveness. Death is conquered by suffering passion. The old order is passing away. And Jesus is making all things new.

Today is the day of that new beginning. Today is a day of love. Today is the day of hope for any lost sinner. Today is the day of salvation. Today is Good Friday.

It is a truly the day we call Good.

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