Good Friday 2022
[Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 31; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42]
“When will winter ever end?” I expect this is a question inhabiting the minds of many of us right now. Just when we might have been tempted to tease our neighbours in Saskatchewan and Manitoba about the blizzard there, we in Edmonton woke up this morning to a blanket of snow and sub-zero temperatures – in April! It is a typical Prairie spring, and while we do wonder in frustration when we will get past the cold, we know that it will warm up eventually.
There is another sense, though, in which we are asking the question, “When will winter ever end”, and are not at all sure that a thaw is on the horizon. Think, for example, of the stubborn deep-freeze of aggression gripping Ukraine, with no indication of a warming in relations any time soon. We can call to mind, too, the coldness of despair enveloping refugees as they flee persecution but are turned away at borders. There is also the seemingly intractable winter of abuse and overdoses among young people, frozen out of hope by human trafficking and the drug trade. With a lament far deeper and more wrenching than simple complaints about a Prairie spring, we all cry out, “When will this winter ever end?”
This liturgy of Good Friday announces that there is reason to hope for a thaw that is real, complete, and lasting. It draws our attention to the Cross of Jesus Christ, from which emanates a warmth aimed at ushering into human history a new and permanent springtime. Let’s consider carefully why this is so.
Jesus died by crucifixion. This was the most cruel and agonizing form of execution imaginable, devised and implemented by human hearts frozen in cruelty, hatred, and indifference. There is no clearer indication than crucifixion that, if winter is to end, what needs to thaw before anything else is the human heart encased in the ice of sin and rebellion. Here we see why Jesus willingly submitted to death on a cross. In so doing, he, the Son of God, brings to the ultimate expression of human cold-heartedness the unsurpassable sign of divine love and forgiveness. Winter recedes as the sun melts what is frozen. Radiating from the Cross of Jesus Christ is the ineffable and unconditional love of God, whose warmth seeks to free by mercy the heart frozen by guilt, and thus create among all people a perpetual spring marked by reconciliation and hope.
Ice on parcels of land shaded from the sun takes longer to melt than that on areas exposed to its rays. As we ponder the sign of the Cross, we can ask ourselves what areas of our lives we are keeping in shadow, away from the warm light of divine mercy. Rare is the human heart not gripped to some degree by the cold of self-centeredness or shame. As long as humanity keeps itself shaded from the love of Jesus Christ, the question of when we shall see the end of global winter will continue to haunt us.
The call to each of us on this Good Friday is to allow our hearts to be melted by the love and mercy of our Lord. Today, let us ask him to show us where we have become frozen by shame at past sins, bitterness from hurts we have endured, or indifference to the plight of others. The winter of despair that continues to grip us all can recede and give way to a springtime of hope only if we willingly and deliberately expose our hearts to the warmth of divine love emanating from the Cross of Jesus Christ, and allow that love to heal and transform us.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
April 15th, 2022