HOMILY FOR GOOD FRIDAY
THEME: THE SUFFERING MESSIAH
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY FOR FRIDAY APRIL 15 2022
On Aba road in Port Harcourt, there are a few posters of a man who advertises his spiritual power. On these posters, he wrote: “I will make you happy, popular and rich.” In the end, he wrote his phone number for people to contact him. There are so many such men and women who lay claims on what they can do for others. Some advertise their religion by performing miracles. They scramble for more members, more followers, and a large congregation. Prosperity preachers abound today whose message denies suffering and the cross. They project a false god and a form of religion that overemphasises Easter Sunday but undermines Good Friday. Others advertise their religion by condemning the religion of others, or by exploiting the hopes and fears of the vulnerable.
Jesus tested his disciples to know if they knew who he was and what his mission was about. He asked: “Who do the people say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” And he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” For Peter, this Christ of God was perhaps someone who will be immune from suffering and pain. The disciples must have been shell-shocked when Jesus disclosed to them, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed and on the third day rise again.” Jesus advertises himself not as a worldly king with all the trappings of power and wealth, but as a suffering messiah. Many years before his entry into the world, the prophet Zechariah spoke about this suffering messiah who will draw the attention of the world: “They will look upon him whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).
Jesus’ advertisement strategy goes contrary to typical modern-day advertising that exaggerates the values of a product or the benefits of an organization. Usually, in most advertisements terms and conditions are in small print. Conversely, Jesus speaks boldly of the terms and conditions of discipleship. His advertisement was truthful, simple, and memorable: “If any man would come after me, let his deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Jesus was not so interested in making fans as he was in getting faithful followers, no matter how few they were. He was not scrambling for admirers but devotees. There was once an advertisement in a newspaper that read: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.” Courageous people responded positively to this advertisement to experience this rare adventure. Jesus advertises both adversity and prosperity. For him, adversity through the cross is the path to prosperity: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).
Jesus challenges all those who believe in him to carry their crosses daily and follow him. The cross is a symbol of death and the Apostle Paul explains the meaning of this death: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God… offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness…” (Romans 6:11-13).
On Good Friday, we reflect especially on the significance of the cross and the suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus. The cross is a symbol of suffering and the message of the cross tells us that to live without suffering is to live in a fantasy world. However, the suffering that Jesus speaks about is not just suffering for the sake of suffering, but redemptive suffering. It that gives meaning to life. This suffering comes in different forms, sickness, injuries, betrayal, oppression, deprivation, agony and pains, loss, sorrow, trouble, affliction, and torment. Redemptive suffering is to share in the cross of Jesus for spiritual growth, glory, and sanctification (1 Peter 4:13). The Apostle Peter says, “To the degree that you share in the suffering of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice in exultation. The story of Job, that of Joseph, and the passion of Christ show us the nature of redemptive suffering. Joseph, Job, and Jesus suffered, but their humiliation led to their exultation. According to the Prophet Isaiah, the “Suffering Servant shall be exalted and lifted up” (Isaiah 52:13) and “Will grow like a root out of the dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2). Thus, the suffering servant becomes a model for all believers (1 Peter 2:21-25). St. Rose of Lima says, “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” Suffering is more meaningful when it is seen as a sharing in the passion of Christ. In Catechism we learn that “By His passion and death on the cross, Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to Him and unite us with His redemptive passion” (#1505). How ready are we to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus?