The Beloved Disciple(s) at the Foot of the Cross
Homily for the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
Preached on April 6, 2007 at St. William Catholic Church, London KY
Readings: Isaiah 52:13-52:12; Psalm 31:2, 12-13, 15-17, 25; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
We know their names: all of those whom Jesus called to be His disciples (cf. Mt. 10:2-4; Mk. 3:14-19; Lk. 6:13-16). We know where they’re from. We know their stories. We know which one had trouble handling money, which one was a religious fanatic, who were the fishermen, which ones were the mama’s boys. We know of their efforts to follow Jesus and we also know how they fared on these three days. One betrayed Jesus and sold Him off for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Mt. 26:14-15). The others snoozed through the night of prayer and later abandoned the Master (cf. Mt. 26:40, 45, 56; Mk. 14:37, 40-41, 50). Another denied ever knowing Him (cf. Jn. 18:17, 25-27). The rest stood by in silence as injustice was carried out according to the demands of the crowd: to have Him who is most innocent be crucified (cf. Jn. 19:6). Yes, we know who the disciples of Jesus are, and we also know what they have done and what they have failed to do.
We know their names because they are our names. We are the disciples of Jesus. And, in our lives, we too have betrayed Jesus for a whole lot less than thirty silver coins. We call such betrayal ‘sin.’ The Lord knows that we have snoozed through many a moment of prayer. We may not have denied knowing Jesus, but we fail miserably every day to share with others what we know of Him. We have stood by in silence as small acts of injustice are carried out. Indeed, we the modern-day disciples of Jesus are no different from the Twelve who came before us. Look at the cross; look at the bloody and broken body of our naked Savior. This happened because of what we His disciples have done, but most of all because of what we have failed to do.
Yet despite all this, the final word is not sin and death; it is mercy and eternal life. That is what we have gathered here today to remember. Here and now the Lord offers us another chance, the chance to be that other disciple, the disciple whom Jesus loved, that one who stood at the foot of the cross throughout the ordeal of Good Friday (cf. Jn. 19:26-27). In our sinful lives, we have failed the Lord in the same way as those other disciples did. But right here and right now, we are no longer those disciples. Instead, we are all called to be the beloved disciple of Christ; we are called to stand at the foot of His cross.
In a few moments that cross will be brought into this church and raised up for our eyes to see. Then we will have the opportunity to approach and to venerate the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world. The Jews look at the cross and call it a scandal; the Gentiles call it madness (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23). But we bow down in worship to the cross because it is not a scandal. It is salvation for the whole world. It is not madness; it is the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 1:24). It is not defeat; it is victory. It is not the finality of death; it is the key to eternal life.
Behold, then, the wood of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world. Come, all of you, beloved disciples of Christ; let us worship.