Archbishop of Westminster

Good Friday 2012

As we listened this afternoon to this beautiful proclamation of the Passion according to St John, a scene from the recent film of the passion came to my mind. It was a moment during the journey to Calvary, when Jesus, fallen to the ground under the weight of the cross, looks up and sees his Mother there before him. Their eyes meet, and he says to hers: ‘See, I am making all things new!’

These words are taken from the Book of Revelation. Placed in the context of the Passion, they serve as an excellent guide for our thoughts and prayers during this Sacred Triduum as we celebrate the mystery of our salvation. This work of God in Christ, which fills our minds and hearts today, is indeed the pathway by which all things are made new.

Today, Good Friday, we do well to contemplate how the action of God in Christ, in his suffering and death on the cross, accomplishes the forgiveness of our sins. This is Jesus making all things new, in a work that no one else can ever accomplish. ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ is a question echoed in the Gospel. Today we have the answer. Indeed, no one but God can forgive our sins. And in the broken body of Christ upon the cross that is precisely what is happening.

We know that each of our actions has its consequences. We may like to think that this is not necessarily the case; that some actions are so private, so unknown, that they have no further effect. But it is not so. Even those things which we do in private, whether for good or for bad, ripple outward in effect, at least in the way they form our own dispositions for further good or further selfishness.

Then there are other patterns by which we human beings habitually try to avoid or minimise the consequences of our own actions. One is deeply ingrained in us. We are skilled, and always have been, at passing on to others the responsibility for what we ourselves have done. This pattern is written into the Book of Genesis for Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. It is always someone else’s fault. They are to blame, not me. We swiftly pass the burden of guilt onto another.

In the person of Jesus we see this patterned reversed. He suffers, he dies, because he, the innocent one, takes to himself the blame and guilt due to us. We, who are guilty, avoid the consequences of our actions. He, who is innocent, accepts the consequences of what we have done. He is indeed the new Adam, making us new through his death on the cross.

The burden of this guilt is the burden of betrayal, of love broken and forsaken. For all our wrong-doing is a betrayal of every gift of love we are given, starting with the love of God, given in the gift of life and the gift of the revelation of its true meaning. Sin is our stepping away from this love, out of mistaken love of self, walking away from 2 his true meaning out of pride, thinking that we know better than our maker. And the forgiveness achieved in Christ on the cross is the refashioning of that broken love, the renewed declaration of its true meaning and pathway. It is costly work, costing no less that total self-giving, every last drop of effort and of blood. It is the work by which the offence to God caused by our sins is repaid. This is the most wondrous way in which to declare forgiveness, most suitable for bringing about the perfect triumph of God over death and evil itself.

‘See, I am making all things new!’

‘Yes, Lord, for by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the world!’

Today we approach the cross to venerate the broken body of Jesus. It is a moment of great intimacy for each of us, as we give a sign, a gesture of our deep love for the Lord. Yet it is also a moment we are glad to share with one another, for he is the love we share, the one who holds us together in his family of the Church. He is a lover of each one of us, and a lover of us all. He shows us his unfailing love, beyond doubt, upon the cross. And we venerate him with great love in return.

As you approach the cross this afternoon, have in mind the lovely words we heard, just a little while ago, from the Letter to the Hebrews. They describe exactly what we are to do:

‘Let us be confident, then, in approaching then the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.’ (Hebrews 4.16) The death of Christ restores in us the gift of divine love. That is the great virtue of charity. Yesterday we reflected on the gift of faith as we celebrated the institution of the Mass. Today we see how, through the death of Christ, love is again infused into our souls by the Holy Spirit, the love which is of God, the love by which we love God above all things and our neighbours, too, as ourselves, for God’s sake. The cross, then, in its power of restoring love, is the well-spring of our life in Christ.

Today we embrace that cross, we cling to it, in love and in true devotion. Amen

Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster

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