GOSPEL REFLECTION: GOOD FRIDAY
Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
GOSPEL: John 18:1-19,42
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs are broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.
On Good Friday, we do not celebrate the Sacrament of the Eucharist, instead, we have the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross and Communion Service. This is the one day that the Church omits the celebration of Mass when She commemorates the Passion as it really happened in time. The commemoration of the Passion on Good Friday, the reality of the sacrifice is presented to us, not as a sacrament (i.e. not through the Mass) but “as it was really accomplished.” The Church invites us to once again reflect on the Passion of our Lord i.e. to be a witness and experience the saving work of Christ. That is why today we don’t celebrate a Mass, instead, we mourn the death of our Lord. And we give reverence to the Cross on which our salvation was achieved.
I was contemplating on the seven last words of Jesus. What struck me was the very last words of Jesus – “It is finished.” “Consummatum est!” It was Jesus’ very important last words. John 19:30 “When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” But what does Jesus’ words “It is finished” really mean? To understand this clearly, we should bear in mind that Jesus did not say “I am finished” or “I am done” It was not a cry of despair nor defeat. But rather, it was a declaration of victory. It was just like reporting to the commander-in-chief – “My task is done, it is mission accomplished.” When the servant had finished his work, when the job was completed, the servant would say to his master – it is finished! The master will say to the servant “well done!” I am pretty sure that the Master i.e. the Father is so pleased with the work that is done. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus had always said that He came not to do his own will but that of the Father. He had a mission and work to do directly from the Father and is now completed. The work is done. It was perfect. Salvation is accomplished. Redemption is attained through Jesus death and resurrection. The debt of sin was paid.
What a sacrifice! It was God’s revelation of His immeasurable love for mankind. He gave us His only Son. We call Jesus the Lamb of God. In professing that Jesus is the Lamb of God in our celebration of the Mass, we are recalling His sacrificial death on the Cross. This precisely is our focus on today’s reflection.
At this point, allow me to share with you a story: Two brothers lived together in the same apartment. The elder brother was an honest, hardworking and God-fearing man, while the younger was dishonest, gun totting substance abusing rogue. Many a night the younger brother would come back into the apartment late, drunk and with a lot of cash – and the elder brother would spend hours pleading him to mend his ways and live a decent life. But the younger brother would not listen.
One night, the younger brother came running into the house with a smoking gun and his clothes were bloodstained. “I killed a man,” he announced. In a few minutes, the house was surrounded by police and two brothers knew there was no escape. “I did not mean to kill him,” stammered the younger brother, “and I don’t want to die.” By now the police was knocking at the door.” The elder brother had an idea. He exchanged his clothes with blood-stained clothes of his killer brother. The police arrested him, tried him and he was condemned to death. What a great sacrifice. He died for his younger brother out of his love for him.
In the same manner, Jesus sacrifices himself that we may live out of his love for us. He took upon himself our guilt. For our sake, he suffered and died on the Cross. All these, because he loves us immensely.”There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”
“It is love to the end.” (John 13:1) We come to realize his love by what it costs him. But may this love of Christ that we have come to realize be a reason for us to become more loving people. Realizing the depth of His love should make us grow more of our love of God and our fellowmen.