Friday, March 29, 2013

The Cross:
God's Solidarity with Human Suffering



The following is the first homily that I preached at my parish during its Good Friday "Celebration of the Lord's Passion," the second of three services during the Sacred Paschal Triduum.

Two nights ago I got a message on my phone that someone was in ER.  I was told to just pray for him, but when I found out why he went into ER, I stepped on the gas and shuffled the back seat of my car to make sure that my holy oils were handy.  This person was suffering from something quite serious.  He didn’t want anointing because he wasn’t a believer.  So I just stayed with him.  Then at one point I said, “Look, believe it or not, I know what you’re going through.  I’ve been through it myself.”  His face was buried in his hands, but when I said that, he looked up at me, and for that moment, a connection was made.  He wasn’t alone.
     We all know that feeling.  In our moments of grief and sorrow, the presence of a friend makes all the difference.  Husbands holding their wives’ hands during labour.  A hand on a shoulder at a funeral.  Sharing coffee or tea in silence with someone with depression.  An A.A. meeting.  A cancer survivors' group.  That human connection, of knowing that our suffering isn’t in isolation, bears a tremendous healing quality.
     “Our were the sufferings He bore; ours the sorrows He carried.”  During the Christmas season I said again and again that the Incarnation—God’s becoming man in Jesus—is God’s solidarity with the human race.  As one the carols say, “Pleased as man with men to dwell; Jesus our Emmanuel.”  Here, now, in the middle of the Paschal Triduum, we’ve come full circle:  With the crucifixion of God Incarnate, God’s solidarity with the human race extends even to the darkest of human experiences.  At the Cross, in the crucifixion, God is with us in our sufferings.  We are not alone.  The Cross, ultimately, is God telling us that love, God’s love, is such that if suffering can’t be taken away, God will certainly partake of it.  
     The Cross is, ultimately, God commiserating with us.
     Certainly God is all-knowing, and God ‘knows’ what suffering is.  But the Cross takes God beyond knowing and shows us, in that public display of gruesome execution, that divine love is found in shared pain.
     So many in this congregation, and outside those doors, have hurts.  Teenagers who feel isolated from the world.  Women who have been treated shabbily by lesser men.  Fragile or broken marriages.  Unemployment.  Family and friends stationed in war zones.  Financial stress.  Today is for you.  Know, and know well, that your distress is also God’s.  You do not suffer alone.  “By His wounds we are healed.” 
     But know this, too:  Tomorrow night will be your night as well.  What tomorrow night promises isn’t simply a reversal of tragedy.  It’s an overcoming of tragedy.  It was overcome because it wasn’t just the man Jesus who endured the Cross and grave.  It was the God-Man who did.  And since we are united to Him by baptism, whatever sufferings we put up with now will eventually have to put up with Him, who turned suffering on its head and worked a change that reaches into the deepest fabric of the universe and gives the Good, the True, and the Beautiful the last word.  It might not come right away, but it will come.
     And so we wait…  


Good Friday 2013

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