A. Shortly after I was ordained, the Pastor of my first parish asked me to go to the hospital to visit an ailing parishioner. “Did they teach you how to do this in seminary?” my Pastor asked dubiously. And with all the confidence of my youth, I replied in the affirmative. And so, arriving at the hospital, I bounded into the parishioner’s room. “It’s good to see you, sir!” I said, in my best priestly voice. The parishioner was a large man with a time-worn face and a gruff voice. “What’s good about it?” he groused. “I’m sick as a dog and stuck in this miserable hospital.” “Oh,” said I, realizing that I truly wasn’t ready for this moment. “Well,” I suggest, “it’s good that I brought Holy Communion along with me.” A few supremely awkward moments passed until the parishioner finally asked, “Have you heard any confessions yet?” “Only a few,” I admitted. “Got time for mine, young man?”
B. Suffice to say that it had been a long time since he had gone to confession and the content of his confession was not your garden variety of venial sins. In the wide world of sinning, he had been in the big leagues. After he confessed his sins, there really wasn’t much for me to say except to thank God and to give him absolution. When I finished, he shook my hand, smiled, and said, “Father, that was good!”
C. Over the next few days, I continued to visit him but could see he was slipping away. I anointed him and talked to him about sharing in the sufferings of Christ. “Got it, Father!” he rasped, “God is good.” . . . . . . It fell to me to do his funeral. It was small. There were few survivors or friends. But as I said farewell to this man I had only lately met, I was struck by the truth of his perception of what is good. It wasn’t my cheery greeting or any advice I had to offer. For this man who led a hard life, God’s forgiveness was good. God is good.
II. “Good” Friday
A. “What is ‘good’ about Good Friday?” we might ask. We have listened to mournful song of the Suffering Servant: “There was no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned and we held him in no esteem” … to our ears this does not sound good.
B. What is good about the betrayal of Judas or the three-fold denial of Peter, the leader of the Apostles? How can we describe as “good” the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the mockery of the soldiers, the jeers of the crowd? Like that man I met in the early days of my priesthood, you and I must be realists. We must not attempt to “sanitize” or “romanticize” the price of our salvation. We must not underestimate the costliness of “the loud cries and tears” which Christ, our high priest, clothed in flesh, uttered on our behalf.
C. In what, then, does the goodness of Good Friday consist? Let us learn what is good about Good Friday from the dying man in the hospital. It is the forgiveness of God that it is good – it is the mercy of God that is good. On the face of the suffering Jesus, we see the mercy of the Father that conquers our sins, gives meaning to our suffering, and overcomes death itself. As we look upon Christ Crucified we see the Source of that forgiveness we experience whenever we avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whenever we receive Holy Communion worthily, and whenever God’s mercy prompts and enables us to treat with love those who are most in need, especially the poor and the oppressed . . . . . . all those for whom we will pray in the “Solemn Intercessions”, not forgetting those who were victims of terrorism in Brussels nor those in this Archdiocese who live in extreme spiritual and material poverty.
A. The goodness of this day consists in this: We encounter the central act of mercy in all of human history. The Cross epitomizes our pain and sinfulness yet it is also the means by which God’s mercy and love triumphs. As the Good Friday liturgy proceeds, the Cross will be unveiled and we will say, “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the Savior of the world! Come, let us adore!”
B. Then, we will receive Our Savior devoutly in Holy Communion, knowing that we are welcoming into the depth of our souls the One who alone is good, whose merciful love is the greatest good we could ever hope to attain.
C. May God bless us and keep us always in His love.