Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Homily for the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
Preached on March 25, 2016 at Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church, Morehead 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
In a matter of days, one team out of the Sweet Sixteen from all around the country will emerge as the champions in this year’s NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) basketball tournament. That team will get to bring home the trophy and parade it all around their college town. The players will want to take turns holding up the prize for which they have paid the price with their own blood, sweat, and tears. Their fans will want to see the trophy up close and touch it, maybe even kiss it. None of them quite understand it, but all of them know that there is something about holding a prize in one’s hands that makes the triumph undeniably real.
Of course, the champions will have a moment to claim their bragging rights before they go back to training and trying to repeat their momentous yet momentary victory.
In a matter of minutes, a greater trophy will be brought into this place and we who claim to be the biggest fans of the God Squad will be invited to see it up close and touch it, maybe even kiss it. This trophy is none other than the cross of Christ. It is the prize for which He had paid the price with His own blood, sweat, and tears. None of us quite understand it, but all of us know that there is something about holding this prize in our hands on this Good Friday that makes the Lord’s sacrifice and triumph undeniably real.
But, unlike an NCAA championship, Christ’s momentous victory is not momentary: it is permanent, enduring, everlasting. That is why the Apostle Paul dares to taunt the loser—“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55)—because he can.
Holy Mother Church, to remove any doubt that Christ is going to emerge victorious, instructs us to proclaim the Passion of our Lord according to John on this Good Friday. The Synoptic passion narratives keep Jesus mostly silent, but John has Him “knowing everything that was going to happen to Him” (Jn. 18:4). Jesus speaks and the armed band turns away and falls to the ground (Jn. 18:6). He negotiates with His captors to let His disciples go (Jn. 18:8). He stumps Pilate (Jn. 18:38, 19:7, 10-12), entrusts His mother to his disciple and His disciple to His mother (Jn. 19:26-27), sticks to the script in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled (Jn. 19:28), and informs everyone exactly when “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). This Passion narrative is clear: the Lord has had this in the bag the entire time, so it is no surprise that He is going to come out on top in the end.
The Lord has won the war, but the battle for our souls is far from over. It is now up to us to take up the Lord’s fight, lest we ourselves succumb to sin. It is up to us to get this March madness out of our heads or we will end up as April’s fools.
Hopefully, as we hold on to the cross, the prize of eternal life, we will remember the price that the Lord has paid for our sake as well as the contribution that He asks us to offer: our very own blood, sweat, and tears.