Posted by: matt25 | April 6, 2015

Why Do Catholics Do That?

Originally delivered as a homily on Good Friday, I think this recording is universal in the sense that it’s message in not restricted to that day but will hopefully give me pause to consider any time I listen to it.  Perhaps it will for you as well.  God bless you as you listen, and always.

(  A homily is meant to be listened to rather than read but I have included a written version below that more or less tracks with the recording.  I do recommend reading the Scriptures which inspired it prior to listening.  You can find them here: Scripture Readings for Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion )

Let me begin as we may begin all good things:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  (Amen.)

A friend of mine, whose father died this week, said this on Facebook this morning:

“Dad went home to be with the Lord.  We are very sad right now but, we know how blessed we are to have had him in our lives.  He was truly a silent hero;   always helping someone out and doing for others without any attention to himself.  I love you, Dad.”

She also said that they were glad that he was free from suffering now.  But for those of us who have not yet gone home suffering is a part of life.  We all live that.  In my own family we have been touched by all kinds of suffering.  We have known the touch of illness from the common cold to bone cancer, interpersonal suffering from harsh words to divorce, psychological or emotional suffering from uncertainty to suicide, and I am sure your family’s list, as well as my own, goes on and on.

It is our faith which is our life-line in all kinds of suffering and death.  And today on this Friday our faith calls “Good”, it is suffering and death that sets the stage.  And so it had to be for the spirit of glory to be seen as the curtain parted.  Today, in a special and deeply profound way, we open our hearts to a contemplation of suffering willingly accepted for the sake of love.  Suffering which, another took on to save us from eternal suffering.

“Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, by his stripes we are healed”.[i]

Today is the 2nd part of the Sacred Triduum, three calendar days that are at the same time a single and unified liturgical day, in our celebration of the Paschal Mystery.  Suffering and death, embraced by love, have set the stage for the 2nd Act.  But in Act 1 it was prayerful obedience which set the stage.  Jesus begged the Father to let the cup of suffering pass by him, but said finally ‘yet, not as I will, but as you will.[ii]”, which is what He taught us to pray:  “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”.[iii]

The master and teacher, who is a model for us in the washing of each other’s feet is also our model in prayerful obedience through which.  “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”[iv]  So our holy obedience, modeled after our Lord’s own example, is a part of our baptismal call which we hope to follow;

in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

It is very unusual for me to make the sign of the cross during my homily, so in this setting it is something that has stood out.  But I am guilty of doing it often with little attention or thought, so that I render it as a mere bookend to my prayer.  I invite you to make it a prayer that we can pray together now.  Please join me as we pray together slowly and from the heart:

In the name of the Father

And of the Son

And of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

In a book by St. Francis de Sales called “The Sign of the Cross” with the subtitle “The 15 most powerful words in the English language” he begins by explaining that the Sign of the Cross is a Christian Ceremony that represents the Passion of our Lord by tracing the shape of the cross with a simple motion.

He concludes his book with a chapter filled with examples of the power of this Christian ceremony that we know so well.  Here St Francis tells us:  “The cross has great power against the enemy for two reasons:  the one is that it represents the death of the Savior, which this proud being hates and fears¸ the other is that the Cross is a brief and powerful invocation of the redeemer that can be employed on every occasion suitable for prayer”.

The Sign of the Cross is not a bookend to our prayers.  IT IS A PRAYER!

It is a prayer which is central to our faith.  It is a prayer which we renew in our hearts on Good Friday, and a prayer which carries us in our suffering, as Christ carried our sins in His suffering.  The Sign of the Cross gives us a frequent reminder, hopefully many times each day, to embrace our faith if we make that sign thoughtfully and intentionally.

Do you user 3 fingers and contemplate the Holy Trinity?  Do you use 5 and contemplate the wounds of Christ?  Do you use it as a simple way to open your heart?  Perhaps as a parent you trace it on your child’s forehead as a blessing, in the way that Father Charles blesses us before we are sent forth to be Christians, “little Christ’s” in the world.

The blessings and graces that can flow from this simple motion are as deep and as varied as the mystery it represents;   the mystery of the sacred Triduum, the mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of the Christ of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

As you come forward today to reverence the cross, my prayer for you is that it will be a profound experience of the love that you have for God, and the love that God has for you.  A love that gives meaning to our suffering, and promises us that we need not fear suffering or even death; because Good Friday cannot be separated from Easter Sunday, and we cannot be separated from the love of God.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

[i] ISAIAH 53:5

[ii] MATT 26:39

[iii] MATT 6:10

[iv] HEREWS 5:9



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