Good Friday Homily
“Father David, it’s broken…” These words came from little Hailey who only began to serve Mass before our liturgies were suspended because of covid 19. These are words that brings concern to every priest, especially 10 minutes before Mass. “What’s broken, Hailey?” I asked her. In her shy little voice, she said, “this cross…” The little processional cross that she was holding had come apart. The ‘cross beam’ that held Jesus’ arms had come unglued from the rest of the cross. As I put the little beam back in place I simply said back to her, “that’s alright Hailey… we’ll get that fixed.”
Little did she know that this cross had been broken before. Originally, in three separate pieces that I had in the rectory of my last parish, it was created for our young servers who did not have a processional cross. So I took a small wooden cross that I received as an ordination gift and mounted it to a small brass ‘fluer de lis’ and popped it on the top of a new wooden mop handle. With some stain and varnish to the handle, we had a processional cross-practical for youth to carry.
Today is Good Friday and our attention is drawn to the cross. This year is different as we must stay home. In many or most parishes, a large wooden cross adorns the sanctuary. At both worship sites at Holy Spirit Parish, our large wooden crosses would have been used for the veneration part of today’s service. My heart is drawn to past celebrations of Good Friday. After gathering in silence, we would let our hearts be drawn into the Passion of Our Lord, the story of Jesus’ own experience of the cross. After the sung intentions I would move with the servers to the entrance of the church. At the appropriate time, 5 or 6 parishioners helped me carry in this same large cross up the centre isle. The people who help me carry this cross are those who have carried the cross in their own lives: usually someone who has experienced a loss of a job, relationship, or a loved one; those who suffer from anxiety or depression; those who have been wounded by circumstances in life and reinforced by the tongues of others; those who yearn for peace in their own lives; or those who are broken in any way. In other words, anyone who is alive and breathing is a candidate to help carry this cross. At 3 different times, I would sing, “This is the Wood of the cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world.” The assembly would respond, “Come, let us worship.”
And then they follow, the community comes forth to venerate what they carry: an instrument of irony…torture and healing…of brokenness to wholeness… of death to new life and resurrection. As I sit and look on in prayer, I am always moved with emotions. The people that I have grown to know and love come; they come with their own experiences and their own sacred stories and they kiss and touch the cross (everything that we cannot do in our current climate). The hundreds who gather, of all ages; those who carry the ‘Christ With In’ the ‘alter christus’ (another Christ) come and place themselves on the cross… again… in unison with Jesus, the Christ. In prayer, I unite my own sufferings with theirs and yet allowing those sacred of words of St. Paul to bring me comfort: “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Paul to Romans 8:18).
This year, we cannot gather and venerate as a worshipping community because of another passion… the passion of covid 19 crisis. However, from the safety of our own homes, we can still journey with Jesus to the cross, to the wood of brokenness. I encourage us today, if we cannot join our bishop live streaming from our cathedral for Good Friday service, to take some time and to look at our own passion, our own sacred story, our cross (we all have one or many). With these let us join with Jesus who showed us that the cross is never the end… the cross always leads to resurrection.
Different ‘passions’ will always come and go. Just as the covid 19 crisis will pass, we will always be embracing ‘crosses’ in their many disguises. That little processional cross that Hailey and others carry is now fixed. Many more will carry it after her. Will it break again? Yes! For that is what symbolizes, our brokenness united with the brokenness of Jesus. It will break again and it will be fixed… made new again, just as we will all be made new in the resurrection.