God’s Mercy and Your’s
Good Friday. Fr Aelred Connelly reflects on the nature of the New Covenant made in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Earlier in Lent, we learned from the Demonstrations of Aphraates, the great Syriac theologian, in the office of readings, (Wednesday week one), that God changed the agreement he had made with Adam and made a fresh one with Noah. God then made a further agreement with Abraham, which he changed to make a new agreement with Moses. For Abraham, chosen on account of his faith, the covenant took the form of circumcision which would be a characteristic mark for his descendants. In the case of Moses, the covenant was signified by the paschal lamb, slain on behalf of the people.
In the first reading from Isaiah for Good Friday, we hear of the suffering servant. ‘Ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried…. Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers. Our response might be that of Isaiah. “Who could believe what we have heard?”
We have heard the Passion story so many times, we need to remind ourselves as in the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, that we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. We are reminded that ‘During his life on earth, Jesus offered up prayer and entreaty to the one who had the power to save him out of death….Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.’
In the Gospel acclamation, we hear Christ was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. When Peter takes his sword to Malchus the high priest’s servant in defence of Jesus, Jesus himself says, ‘Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’ He truly absorbs into himself all the evil and sin of the world.
Later, in John’s account of the Passion, we hear, ‘After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said:
‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in vinegar on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar, he said, ‘It is accomplished’. And bowing his head, he gave up the spirit.
Like the paschal lamb, the sign of the covenant of the law of Moses, not one bone of his will be broken, instead they and we, will look on the one whom they have pierced. Instead of breaking his legs, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water.
In the words of the Eucharistic prayer, ‘Take this all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins, do this in memory of me.’ He has emptied himself of life for us. We are washed in the waters of his death in baptism, and nourished in the Eucharist by his life-blood. The cup of bitterness and sin which he drained unto death, has become the cup of salvation for us as we call on the Lord’s name. Our call is one of faith, hope and love in response to the greatest act of love ever made on our behalf. Hebrews exhorts us to ‘be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.’
Pope Francis will inaugurate a Holy year of mercy in 2016, which is also the great jubilee of the founding of the Order of Preachers by St Dominic. When asked what we seek when making profession in the Order, we reply ‘God’s mercy and yours’. This we seek of God and our Brethren. May it be the hallmark of our preaching and pastoral care, now and in the future.
Readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12 | Hebrews 4:14-16,5;7-9 | John 18:1-19:42
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