Good Friday Homily 2014

As he gave up the spirit, having bowed his head, Jesus said, ‘It is accomplished." What exactly did Jesus accomplish? We all know the Gospel story well: how he was conceived and born of Mary, where he grew up and called his first disciples, his preaching and the many miracles of healing, even raising the dead to life, the dangerous game his played with the Jewish authorities that ultimately led to that fateful, final week, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the last supper, the agony in the garden, the betrayal, arrest and trial; to end it all, the crucifixion. It seems a lot to accomplish in a short span of thirty years, only to end in failure, rejection and an ignominious death. And yet what was being accomplished here was something far greater, "beyond the uttermost understanding that man's wit can comprehend," as Lancelot Andrewes put it, preaching before King James I on Good Friday 1605, "beyond the uttermost understanding that man's wit can comprehend."

Before the infinite inscrutability of God and the working of his mind and will and before the mystery of the Incarnation, we can only stand in awe and silent adoration, as Mary and the Beloved Disciple stood at the foot of the cross. To know God and love him and to begin to understand him, you have to know Jesus and love him, as the disciples, in spite of their weaknesses and denials truly did; look at Mary Magdalene. In that wonderful book Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell, Thibault explains the life of Jesus and the meaning of the cross to Abelard. He points to a fallen tree, sawn through the middle. “That dark ring there, it goes up and down the whole length of the tree. But you only see it where it is cut across. That is what Christ’s life was; the bit of God that we saw. And we think God is like that, kind, and forgiving sins and healing people. We think God is like that for ever, because it happened once, with Christ.” “Then, Thibault,” Abelard said slowly, “you think that all the pain of the world was Christ’s cross?” “God’s cross,” said Thibault, “and it goes on.”

Today, at this celebration of the Passion, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ, Son of God and Word made flesh, was crucified for us. The Cross of Jesus is the "bit of God that we saw." In the words of St Augustine, "What God promises us for the future is great, but what God has already done for us in Christ is greater still. Who can doubt that he will give us his life, since he has already given us his death? Why is human weakness so slow to believe that we will one day live with God? After all, a much more incredible thing has already happened: God died for us." Little wonder, then, that St Paul wrote, "far be it from me to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."

 “It is accomplished.” Amen.