Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, people of God,

Last Sunday, which was Palm or Passion Sunday, marked the beginning of the Paschal Mystery, the beginning of the Holy Week, as Jesus was entering Jerusalem, the Holy City. Yesterday, Holy Thursday, during Chrism Mass we celebrated the gift of the Institution of the Eucharist as the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and the Institution of the Holy Order, namely priesthood. The Paschal Triduum was launched with Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, 'service in humility' by washing of the feet, being an essential part and parcel of that liturgical ceremony, symbolising the concrete and true life of Jesus Christ to humanity. A life that has to be emulated by his followers, by all of us.

The culmination of the journey to Jerusalem depicts itself on the Cross of Christ, which we celebrate today, Good Friday. It is a journey from “Hosanna in the highest” to “Crucify him, crucify him!” However, this is not a hopeless journey; it is rather a journey of hope. The power of the Cross leads to the Triumph of Easter! And the Scripture narratives of today help us to understand the Christian meaning of human, and enduring suffering, which leads to restoration and redemption; the Cross that leads to the Crown. In other words, the readings of today help us to understand that suffering produces endurance, and endurance in faith brings hope and healing as the Prophet Isaiah states:

“Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him - so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man - so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; for those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it … Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear” (Is. 52:13-53:12).

There is no doubt that today's redemptive celebration has ironic features which only faith and reason can bring hope, healing and meaning. The message of the Cross is paradoxical as it seems to contradict itself, but in the contradiction itself is found an inherent truth – death bringing life; the illogic of human logic. This shows how that which is negative turns to be positive in the eyes of God. As St. Augustine states, “God Himself had only one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” This gives meaning, hope and authenticity to our life of contradiction.

However, we can still ask ourselves: what as such makes this Friday good? What is good about the symbolic red vestments priests and deacons wear today during this liturgical celebration?

What is good about the altar left completely bare without crosses, without candles and without fanciful altar cloths? What is good today that the Holy Mass and other Sacraments are not celebrated, except for Penance and Anointing of the Sick? What is good in fasting and abstaining today? These are legitimate, essential and important questions to ask.

It is important to note that Good Friday does not give a classic definition of suffering since ‘suffering is not a problem to be solved; it is a mystery to be lived.’ It is a fact that ‘there is no life without suffering, without pain until we reach the finality of this life, the heavenly city.’ Therefore, the meaning of Good Friday can only be found when we deeply and faithfully meditate on the Cross which we shall soon venerate. Its meaning is revealed through the meditation on the Stations of Cross re-enacted across the global Church today.

Today, the Church, in her wisdom, wants the faithful to have a single-focus and concentration on Jesus who humbled himself in obedience to his Father, and became man, suffered and crucified for our sake. He gave meaning to our lives as children of God. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin … Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 4:14; 5:9).

The Church wants us today to fully and totally meditate on The Cross that leads us to the Triumph of Easter, which is the principal symbol of Christianity. This is the Cross which reminds us of the Sacrificial Love of Christ, which he expressed to us through his passion and death on the Cross. “As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ” (1 Cor. 1:23). However, “the message about Christ's death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for those who are being saved it is God's power” (1 Cor. 1:18).

The Cross has a message for all of us gathered here this afternoon. It gives us meaning to the trials and troubles which we undergo, and it stands as symbol of love as well as a symbol of victory. The Cross which we venerate on Good Friday expresses that, 'The greatest mystery of life is that satisfaction or fulfilment is felt not by those who take and make demands, but by those who give and make sacrifices. In them alone the energy of life does not fail, and this is precisely what is meant by 'Good Friday' (cf. Nicolas Berdyaev).

This implies that trials, suffering and pain are an inevitable path towards the attainment of salvation and victory. Suffering and pain bring about unimaginable blessings. It is for this reason that Jesus emphasised that, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, carry his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). Certainly, Jesus afforded no promise of immunity from suffering for the life we live now. William Penn in his book titled, “No Cross, No Crown” would state, “The denial of self, and daily bearing of Christ's Cross, is the only way to the rest and Kingdom of God.” It is in this context that we can understand why the tree of death has turned into a life-giving tree. In the very beginning, a tree brought about the fall of Adam, but in the new dispensation, a tree has brought about the glory of the new Adam, namely Christ: 'By his Cross he has redeemed the world.'

All this pauses a challenge to us to do the same for our brothers and sisters. Good Friday gives us the opportunity to reflect on how Jesus' wounds bring healing to many and how his death offers a ticket of salvation to everyone. We can learn a lot from Pope Francis. For those who suffer or victims of persecution, oppression or exploitation, Pope Francis has become their ambassador, their voice of hope; he has become the voice of the voiceless. At the same time, he challenges their agitators or victimisers, those who dehumanise the human dignity. For him, 'Good Friday is a Gospel of suffering endurance for all who have, in the course of history been persecuted and abused by those who are politically, socially, religiously and economically powerful, plagued by diseases, natural tragedies, man-made violent structures (the dehumanisation of human beings), abuse of guns, ISIS, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, poverty, and ignorance, come to the realisation that God is with them, and that the power of the oppressors is temporary.'

In the midst of economic hardship, physical suffering, spiritual persecution, excruciating pain, deep sorrow and existential troubles, the Cross becomes a symbol of hope. The redemptive Cross of Christ which we celebrate today throws light in a most penetrating way. In other words, through faith, the Cross reaches us together with resurrection; the mystery of the passion is contained in the Paschal Mystery (cf. John Paul II, Salvific Doloris – On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering).

Finally, I encourage that in any spiritual, physical, moral, political and social challenges or suffering, look at the cross of Christ, it is your sure symbol of hope.


May we die in Him, and give our lives completely to God through our loving service to humanity, since the 'Power of the Cross leads us to the Triumph of Easter.’ May you find meaning, consolation and hope in the Lord whenever and wherever you may come across the Cross; whenever and wherever you may encounter Cross in your lives. Ame

God bless you all!

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