Jn 18:1- 19:42
Two brothers lived together in the same house. The elder brother was a responsible family man. The younger one was single and into a lot of vices and criminal activities. At night he would come home late, drunk and with a lot of cash. The elder brother knew exactly what he was into. He would spend hours pleading with him to mend his ways and live a decent life. But the young man would not listen. One night he came running into the house with a smoking gun and blood-stained clothes. “I killed several men,” he announced. In a few minutes police cars came and the two brothers knew there was no escape. “I did not mean to kill them,” stammered the young brother, “I can’t go to jail. I don’t want to die.” By now the police were at the door. The elder brother had an idea. He exchanged his clothes with the blood-stained clothes of his killer brother. The police arrested him, tried him and condemned him to death for multiple murder. He was killed and his younger brother lived. He died for his brother.
We are the younger brother. Jesus is the elder brother. He died for us. This is the meaning of our celebration today. This is Good Friday, the best Friday in fact, because we see how great is the love of God for us that He gave us His only Son.
Unfortunately, in this world obsessed with materialism and egoism, few people recognize the profound meaning of this day. In a fancy New York hotel, to give bonus attraction and entertainment to the guests during the Holy Week, a life-sized sculpture of the Crucified Lord was displayed in the lobby. It was a sculpture made of chocolate, and beneath it was the cute caption, “My Sweet Jesus!” The image of the Suffering Lord has become just a piece of entertainment and fun. Has anyone seen a chocolate sculpture of the execution of Saddam Hussein or a candy image of the assassination of JFK? There is none, for we would all be outraged! Then why is the image of the Crucified Lord subjected to such mockery and travesty?
Make no mistake about this. Jesus died for us. He was murdered. Killed! This is serious; it is no laughing matter. Yet we call this day Good Friday because we are the beneficiary of the sacrifice of Jesus. We should be the ones punished and killed for our sins and offenses. Instead, Jesus took our place, all on account of his love for us.
Good Friday is the best love story we can ever imagine. Love is total self-giving. And Jesus showed us the perfect example. He gave himself up for us: “There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.”
How should we respond to it? Well, how would you expect the junior brother to respond to the death of the senior brother? We would expect him to respond with GRATITUDE. It would be highly unthinkable for the younger brother to go back to his old life of vices and crimes that caused his brother’s death. That gratitude, therefore, should move him to sincere repentance and conversion. In the same way, Good Friday must evoke in us sincere sorrow for our sins and the firm resolve to amend our ways for the rest of our lives.
Secondly, the younger brother will always remember the sacrifice done by his brother. He will always pray for him, visit the cemetery often and remember him during special occasions of the family. In the same way, gratitude to the Lord will always lead us to remember him at all times. The best way to do this is during every Eucharistic celebration. The Mass is a memorial. It was the instruction of Jesus at the Last Supper: “Do this in memory of me.” That is why the liturgical law instructs that the cross with the image of the Crucified Lord be placed near or on the altar during every Eucharistic celebration, precisely to help us remember always the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sakes.
Third, the younger brother will take upon himself the responsibilities and obligations left behind by his brother – to his wife and children and the other people. In the same way, gratitude to Christ should make us more generous and helpful to others, for such was his explicit command: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Good Friday is day of mixed sentiments: tears for our sins that led Jesus to his death on the cross, as well as joy for the new life his death gave us. But most especially, gratitude is what God expects from us – this gratitude should make us hate sin, remember the sacrifice of Jesus at all times, and translate our love of God into love of all of God’s people.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002