Homily on Good Friday, 2012
Fight or flight – the two natural responses to evil, to pain, to sin, to suffering. We see so many of those around Christ respond in one of these two ways as he endures his passion and death. Most of his disciples simply flee. Peter at first draws his sword and strikes a servant, but then flees as well.
It seems that they were pretty clear on the fact that Christ did not want them to revolt, that his was not a kingdom of earthly power and might. That violence was not the response to evil for those who would follow in his footsteps.
So rather than fight, they fled. But that was not Jesus’ desire either. Beginning at table with them at the last supper, and then intensely in the garden, he told them and showed them by his example the way to respond to the assaults of the evil one: to pray. At table with them he prayed. In the garden, he prayed. In the cell we can only imagine that he spent the night in prayer. And on the cross he prayed. His dying breath was a prayer.
Neither to fight or to flee. But to fix one’s whole being, to the extent possible, on God and on his will. To place one’s whole heart and mind and will in the hands of our Lord.
There is no other adequate response to evil, to sin. In a pitched battle against evil and suffering we will lose. And death and suffering will follow us no matter how much we might try to flee from them. Jesus shows us that our fallen world can only find redemption, can only be freed from sin and death one way: united to God and his will. And the way that we are united to God is in prayer.
In a few moments we will turn to God in prayer, in the Universal Prayer that takes on particular importance on Good Friday each year. We turn our hearts to him in solemn prayer, and in doing so we follow his command and his example of what to do when we are faced with the cross. We pray. In fact, I think we could say that we venerate the cross twice tonight. First in our prayer, and second as we, in procession, in action.
In our prayer, we are most closely united to Christ at this moment, at the moment of his death. In fact Christ continues to pray through us to the Father from the Cross of this altar each time we celebrate the Eucharist – that God’s will may be done. In our communion in the prayer of Christ we are united to Mary and the women at the foot of the cross, and those disciples who, throughout the centuries have faced the cross of evil and suffering in our world in prayer.
Facing the cross we neither fight nor flee, we pray. May God give us the grace to be faithful, to keep watch, united to his Son in prayer on behalf of our world this day.