MARCH 29,2002, GOOD FRIDAY- HOMILY: JOHN 19:34
SEEING THAT JESUS WAS DEAD, A SOLDIER OPENED HIS SIDE WITH A LANCE AND IMMEDIATELY THERE FLOWED OUT BLOOD AND WATER. There is a profound theological point that John intends to make with this text. The Evangelist indicates with his comment that indicates that he considers this is a particularly significant happening: And the one who saw this gave testimony and his testimony is true. The blood here indicates the true death of Jesus and the water is a sign of the life that his death bestows upon his faithful followers. This is, in fact, a major theme of this Gospel: in order that we might have eternal life, Jesus, the Word of God and God himself in the flesh, must die on our behalf and he willingly does so.
We can never adequately grasp the full implications of this fundamental truth of our faith. For many, beginning with the Jews of our Lords time, it was incomprehensible. They considered it out of the question that their Messiah should die crucified, and still more unthinkable, that the man Jesus could be what he claimed, equal to the Father. In fact, there is a natural tendency for our human nature, as we know it in this fallen world, to associate virtue and goodness with success and recognition from others. We feel it as a great injustice to us when, in spite of our best efforts to be honest and faithful to our duties, we are accused of some wrong or even attacked as though we deserve punishment. It is a human tendency to suppose that God has the same standards of justice that we do.
But there is a higher form of justice which is based upon the transcendent holiness of God and which governs his dealings with our human race. Already in the time of the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah had glimpsed this truth when he had his inaugural vision of the God of majesty, throned in heavenly glory. His reaction was to become acutely aware of his unworthiness and felt all the sharp guilt of his sins. A later disciple of his wrote of the chosen Servant of God whose was destined to suffer an unjust fate at the hands of sinners on behalf of others. Jesus was the one who fulfilled that powerful prophecy in his own person. His innocence and the terrible sufferings and humiliations he endured are, then, a measure of Gods holiness and purity. We are meant to learn from his own suffering and death that there is a higher justice operative in this world where sin has so much scope in human lives to which all of us must submit if we would enter into Gods favor and eventually share his glory.
Perhaps the most significant lesson each one of us here could learn from our participation in todays liturgy is this very point: God our Father has so loved us that he has given his own beloved Son to suffer and die in order that we might, in all truth, be made worthy of sharing in his life and glory. The measure of our worth and dignity is infinite. It cannot be reckoned in terms of any value this world offers; it is to be evaluated only in terms of a self-giving love that does not stop at the greatest cost imaginable- the dignity and the life of the Incarnate Word of God.
Our monastic Fathers, the men who founded our Order and assured its continuing existence through the centuries, had perceived this fundamental insight concerning our dignity. Consequently, they constructed our monastic life on the solid foundation of this reality which applies to each of us here. They maintained that we are so created that it is given us to become worthy of being in all truth a member of Gods intimate circle, his own household.By virtue of our being made in his image we are given the destiny to put our faith in our creator, and trusting in the Son he sent to redeem us, to accept his call to fulfill this destiny by conforming our behavior to the pattern revealed by the man-God, Jesus. This pattern includes the suffering and humiliation that we have heard announced to us in todays Gospel, and that includes the power to understand and experience such suffering as being already a share in the glory of the world to come. That is how St. John came to view the final days of his Redeemer, as being, in a hidden way, already the beginning of his glorification which was to be completed on Easter night.
In this liturgical gathering we do not offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, but we are given the opportunity to receive the glorified body of Christ in a communion that unites us, in a living faith, with him. He comes to us as a pledge that we are given a share in his life as well as in his death. May we so live these days and always in such a manner as to prove worthy of this grace until the day we meet in the presence of the Father and behold his glory face to face.