Friday, April 18, 2014

Did Jesus Waste His Time On Good Friday?

The "big crucifix" on the back wall of the sanctuary of St. Pius X Church.

(Good Friday 2014: This homily was given on April 18, 2014 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, RI, by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9.  Also read the Passion Narrative of St. John.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Good Friday 2014]

Did Jesus waste his time on Good Friday?

That may seem like an odd question, but it really isn’t.

Objectively speaking, of course, Jesus did not waste his time on Good Friday or on any other day of his earthly life.  As he said in John 6: 38, “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”

And that “will” of the Father reached its climactic point on this day a little more than 2,000 years ago when “he gave his life as an offering for sin” (as Isaiah puts it in today’s first reading) so that we might have the hope of being cleansed of our sins and living forever in his kingdom.  As our second reading tells us, “Son though he was, [Jesus] learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect [through the resurrection], he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

The sacrifice of Jesus on Mt. Calvary was sufficient for the forgiveness of any and every sin in human history: from the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, to the final sin that will be committed in this world just before the Second Coming of Christ and the Final Judgment.

That’s the “good news” of Good Friday!

So, objectively speaking, “It is finished!”  Salvation has been won for us!  Jesus accomplished his mission from the Father, and he accomplished it PERFECTLY! 

From that perspective, he definitely did NOT waste his time.

However, subjectively speaking, my brothers and sisters, he might have!  In other words, even though it’s an objective fact that salvation has been made possible for us by the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Savior, if we don’t actually experience that salvation personally—subjectively—then, in a very real sense, you could say that Jesus “wasted his time” for us in going through all the horrors that we just heard about in this gospel!

You could even say he wasted his time if, on a given occasion, we refuse to accept the forgiveness that he’s already given to us.

What brought all this to mind was something that happens every once in a while in the sacrament of Confession.  A person will come in and say, “Father, I committed such-and-such a sin many years ago, and I’ve confessed it before (actually, I’ve confessed it several times).  But it still bothers me.”

The priest will say, “Well, did you commit the sin again?”

“Oh no, Father, I only did it that one time, but I still feel like I’m guilty.”

The priest will then try to help the person to understand that since they’ve confessed the sin with true contrition in their heart and been absolved from it in the sacrament, Jesus has forgiven it—totally and completely!

And so they need to make the effort to forgive themselves for it and let it go.

But some people will insist that they can’t.  At that point I will usually say something to this effect: “Ok, here’s what I want you to do.  When this confession is over I want you to go out into the main part of the church, and kneel down, and look at the big crucifix on the back wall.  And then I want you to spend some time thinking about everything Jesus went through on Holy Thursday and Good Friday: how he was beaten, and kicked, and spat upon, and scourged until his flesh peeled off his body—and finally crucified.  Spend some quality time really thinking about that.  (If you saw The Passion of the Christ, remember everything that you saw in that film.)  And then I want you to look up at Jesus and say to him in your heart, “Lord Jesus, I know that you went through all of that for me.  I know you endured all of those terrible things and went through that living hell so that I could be forgiven for this sin—and for every sin.  But you see, Lord Jesus, even though you did all of that for me—and have forgiven me—the fact of the matter is that I can’t forgive myself.  So I guess, Lord, that you wasted your time.  You wasted your time dying on that cross for me.”

I usually end by saying, “Do you really want to say that to Jesus?  Do you really want to tell him that, as far as you’re concerned, he went through all of that pain and suffering for nothing?”

Sometimes that will help the person—finally—to move beyond their self-loathing and find some peace.

By seeking the Lord’s forgiveness as often as we need it (which is every day!), and by forgiving ourselves after Jesus has already forgiven us, we make the Passion and Death of Jesus personally—subjectively—worthwhile.

So the message tonight from our loving Lord is simple: “Remember all that I did to save your soul.  Thank me from the very bottom of your heart.  And then make sure—make sure above all else—that I did NOT waste my time on that cross suffering and dying for you.”