Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Homily, April 22, 2011, Luke 23:46

The Gospels tell us that Jesus uttered seven sayings from the cross of Calvary, with him at the end crying out in a loud voice in the final, seventh saying:
 "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46b NRSV)
In this saying we hear the end of the Son of Man; we hear the end of the cross of passion, and we also hear the final result of the Garden Prayer:
39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, "Pray that you may not come into the time of trial." 41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done." 43 [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] (Luke 22:39-44 NRSV)
He prayed, “Father, not my will but yours,” and at the crucial moment we see he meant his prayer, for on the cross, at the moment of truth, he abandoned himself to the Father’s will and to the fate of all humans -- the experience of death.
Last week during our Passion Sunday Homily we asked the question how  we could possibly come to this kind of spiritual resignation -- not my will but yours be done? I said then that the air is very thin when we enter this kind of discipleship.
And I said further, we only come to this kind of discipleship after the we learn through practice that this kind of investment in following GOD’s will is actually the best path life has to offer.
Jesus knew this and he offers himself in prayer, both in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross of Calvary because GOD’s will for him was sacrosanct -- to holy, to valuable, to important to be offered interference.
It must be the same for us. For, we who now attempt to follow in the Jesus-way, we who name the name of the Christ, we are called to follow him all the way -- denying self, carrying a cross and taking up the narrow, rocky path. 

But, this seems somehow too burdensome, too abstract, too troubling, and frankly just too much in today’s challenged world of family troubles, and lay-offs, and violence and war. We prefer an easier road, maybe even the easy road. But we must never forget, this is our moment; this is the time for our discipleship to truly mean something. To offer ourselves, now, when it is a struggle, when it is an effort, when much is at stake, when it cost us something, that is the key!

Wilfrid Stinissen, in his recent book  Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us, explains:
In the spiritual life, we need a central idea: something so basic and comprehensive that it encompasses everything else. Surrender to God, abandonment to the One who loves us completely, is that central reality. 
The life of Jesus shows us the centrality of abandonment, for it is truly the beginning and the end of his mission on earth. He goes on to distinguish three degrees or stages in abandonment. 
The first stage consists of accepting and assenting to God's will as it manifests itself in all circumstances of life. 
The second is actively doing God's will at every moment of one's life. 
And, in the third stage, abandonment to God is so complete that one has become a tool in God's hands. At this stage it is no longer I who do God's will, but God who accomplishes his will through me.
This is the message of the cross, this is the message for our discipleship, this is the message of Good Friday -- that even in life’s darkest hour, even when are journey brings us to death’s door, GOD’s will is to be sought;  GOD’s will is to be trusted; GOD’s will is to be embraced...