Friday of the Lord’s Passion

29 March 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan NewsMessages and Homilies


[Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 31; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42]

In a few minutes, we shall all be invited to come forward in procession for the Veneration of the Cross. This is a long-standing tradition here at the Basilica, yet it was paused for the last few years due to the pandemic and its aftermath. I am glad to see this practice renewed, because the veneration of the Cross is central not only to this Liturgy of Good Friday but also to our entire lives. On the Cross, Jesus the Christ was crucified for our salvation. From this wondrous truth arises the cry of God’s people: “Come, let us worship!” We must venerate the Cross of our Lord, for from the Cross we have the gift of eternal life.

Now, we know that, because of what Jesus has done for us on the Cross, our veneration of it cannot be only today; it is an act that must mark the entirety of our lives. As followers of the Lord Jesus, called by him to take up our cross daily, his Cross stands at the centre of our existence, and its veneration shapes our lives. We are accustomed as Catholics to reflect this by placing a crucifix on a wall in each room of our dwellings. Yet this beautiful custom must also find an echo in every aspect of our daily living. So, on this day when we resume the procession of veneration, I invite us all to see it as symbolic of the many processions that move through our lives, and in the midst of which we are called to lift up the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and bow down in worship before it.

For example, on this Good Friday our attention is focused upon the procession of sin and guilt that has longed moved through human history. It continues now to snake its way through our own lives, carrying us along with it in directions that lead to great harm. Yet the Cross of Christ brings an end to this when we allow the grace of divine forgiveness to flow from it into our hearts. Veneration of the Cross in the midst of the procession of sin means to bow down in humble repentance for all the ways we offend against the Lord’s love, and to commit by grace to live no longer for ourselves but for the Lord.

We can think, too, of the vast parade of suffering moving around the planet. No one, in fact, is immune from it. In the midst of such great and widespread pain, the Church calls upon us to venerate the Cross, because on it we see the Eternal Son of God, who became one with us in order to take to himself the entire range of human suffering, stand in deepest solidarity with all who suffer, and through his resurrection transform our pain and grief into life and joy.

In North America particularly, we see a constant pageantry of materialism and hedonism, exalting pleasure and locating happiness in the accumulation of wealth, prestige, and possessions. The Cross of Jesus Christ exposes all that as dangerous illusion and wasteful folly. To venerate his Cross is to accept that true happiness stems from a life of self-gift, expressed in the worship not of ourselves but God, and in service not of our own desires but the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the neglected.

Especially egregious in the present moment is the procession of hatred, violence, and destruction. This is fuelling a seemingly unlimited flow of weapons and lies that are ending the lives of innumerable people in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, and war-torn regions of Africa. Jesus Christ gave his life on the Cross to break down walls of hostility (cf. Ephesians 2:14) and thus reconcile members of the human race with God and one another. To venerate the Cross in the midst of this parade of division is to cry out “Enough!”, it demands that we work for the justice that leads to peace, and impels us to ask the Lord to heal by his mercy any sentiments of hatred we may be harbouring in our own hearts towards other persons.

As a final example, we can take note of the parade of ideologies in circulation, competing for our attention and vying to explain all of reality from within very limited perspectives. To venerate the Cross in the midst of this procession of worldviews is to acknowledge that the truth of all reality is manifested solely in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. He alone is the answer to the question of human life (cf. St. John Paul II); in him alone is the meaning and destiny of human existence made clear.

Only if we learn, only if the world learns, to venerate in our minds and hearts the Cross of Jesus Christ can these many movements of pain, confusion, and despair be transformed into one single procession of hope. So, as today we move out of our pews and toward the Cross, let us pray that we, and people everywhere, will step away from all that is sinful, all that is self-referential, all that sows division and despair, and instead process together daily, in repentance and hope, toward Jesus, the One who gave his life on the Cross for the salvation of us all and for the whole world.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Joseph Basilica

March 29th 2024