Friday, April 19, 2019

Which Wound am I Most Grateful for?

(Good Friday 2019: This homily was given on April 19, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 31:2-15; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Good Friday 2019]

As we contemplate the sufferings of Jesus tonight, we might, quite naturally, feel some sadness in our heart—remembering all that Jesus endured for us on that first Good Friday some 2,000 years ago.  But Good Friday is not first and foremost a day for sadness.  It’s first and foremost a day for GRATITUDE—for thanksgiving.  Because, as Isaiah tells us in tonight’s first reading, by the wounds of Jesus we are healed.  That is to say, by the wounds of Jesus, we can be forgiven for anything and everything.  By the wounds of Jesus, we can break with whatever evil is present in our past—we can put it behind us, forever—if we sincerely repent.  That is possible by his wounds, and only by his wounds. 

Thank you, God! 

It reminds me of the woman who went to her parish priest one day and told him that she had seen Jesus.  He was rightly skeptical about her claim, so he said to her, “Madam, when Jesus appears to you again, ask him to tell you my sins, the sins I confessed to another priest in confession last week.  Only Jesus and the priest know those sins, and the priest is bound by the seal of confession.  If this apparition tells you what my sins are, then I’ll believe it’s Jesus.”  Two weeks later the woman came back, and the priest said to her, “Well, did Jesus appear to you again?”  She said, “Yes.”  “And did you ask him what my sins were?”  She said, “Yes.”  “And what did Jesus say?”  “He said, ‘Go tell your priest I have forgotten his sins.’”  Jeremiah prophesied (chapter 31, verse 34) that when the new covenant was instituted, God would FORGET our sins.  In other words, once we repented of them and they were forgiven, they would never come between us and him again.  Never!  I think we all know how much it hurts when another person says that they forgive us for a sin, but then later on that same person throws the sin back in our face and rubs our nose in it.  God will never do that—he’s told us so—because of the wounds of his Son. 

So I suppose for each of us the important question tonight is: Which wound am I most grateful for?  As an individual, as a sinner, which wound am I, personally, most grateful for?  You see, it’s not a coincidence that Jesus had the specific wounds that he had.  Those different wounds, which were inflicted on different parts of his body, point to the many different sins that he carried to the cross.  For example, we’re told that his head was wounded with a crown of thorns—that was for all our sins of the mind: the uncharitable thoughts, the angry thoughts, the prideful thoughts, the impure thoughts, the despairing thoughts.  Believe it or not, he was also wounded there for our many sins of the tongue—because every sin of the tongue begins in the mind.  So as his precious blood flowed from the deep cuts the thorns made in his head, our sins of lying, gossip, slander, and cursing were all washed away. 

He was also wounded in his hands.  Because of those wounds, every abortionist who uses his hands to destroy innocent human life can be forgiven if he repents.  Because of those wounds, every murderer can have his sins washed away if he repents.  Because of those wounds the repentant thief on our Lord’s right was forgiven.  Because of those wounds all sins of violence and impurity committed with our hands can be washed away forever.

The heart of Jesus.  As we heard tonight in John’s account of the Passion, “One of the soldiers ran a lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” Our Lord’s heart was wounded for the many times that we put other things (or other people) before God: the times when something (or someone) other than the Lord reigns supreme in our heart.  It might be a spouse; it might be a friend; it might a group of people that we want to fit in with; it might be a sport or money or getting ahead professionally—or something else.  But praise God, whatever it is, the fact that our Lord’s heart was punctured with that spear means that we can be forgiven—if we turn away from the idol, and put the real God back on the throne of our heart, where he belongs.

And finally--our Lord’s feet.  These were pierced with nails for all the times when we didn’t walk away from situations where we knew we’d be strongly tempted to sin.  They were wounded for the times when we’ve gone to places we knew we shouldn’t have: the party where we knew that people would be drinking excessively and acting promiscuously; the movie where we knew our mind would be filled with violent or lustful images.  We say in the Act of Contrition that we will “avoid the near occasion of sin.  Our Lord’s feet were wounded for all the times we have failed to do that—so that forgiveness would be possible even for those sins that we could have easily avoided and should have easily avoided, but didn’t.

Which wound am I most grateful for?  As we venerate the cross tonight during this Good Friday service, let’s think of that question, and by our veneration let’s express our deep, heartfelt gratitude to the Son of God who has saved us by his wounds, and who now offers us forgiveness and strength: the strength to live a life free from the power of sin.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews said to us a few moments ago: “Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”  May we all do that tonight, as we approach the cross, and then later as we receive the Savior himself—body, blood, soul and divinity—in the Holy Eucharist.