Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16,5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
Pain and Sufferings – Meaningless or Meaningful?

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Joseph, Victoria Street on 14 April 2017

Today’s celebration of Good Friday is the most crowded celebration in Catholic Christian churches around the world; churches are even more crowded today than Christmas and Easter celebrations.  Why is this so? 

I believe, one of the main reasons is because one of the most basic human experiences in life is pain and suffering . . . we not only read it in the newspaper, watch it on Television, u-tube, social media daily . . . most of all we have all experienced some form of suffering, and if they are deep and traumatising, many of us often cannot make sense of why we have to go through them. 

The clearest form of pain and suffering that we are able to understand are the physical pains in life that are caused by our own irresponsible choices like, if we over eat and get stomach upset or if we drank too much alcohol and are drowsy and drunk, we know the cause of pain and suffering . . .

However, pain and suffering becomes more difficult to understand and accept if they are caused by the irresponsible choices of other people.  Take for example: if Jane, had been very faithful in bringing up her family, and have given up much of her life in sleepless nights and endless sacrifices, of even giving up her career just to take care of her children for say some 20-30 years, and then one day discovers to her horror that her husband Jack has been committing adultery.  And when she gets angry and questions Jack about his infidelity, Jack files for divorce?!  How would one understand and accept such tragic discoveries?  We can imagine Jane saying, “While I may not be perfect, as a wife and mother do I deserve this?  I have given up my career, I am left with no savings and you just leave me with the children and go off with you woman?  What about the children  . . . they are so innocent . . . and do they deserve such pain and suffering . . .? 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus have come into the world and our lives to forgive us of the sins we have committed.  Jesus also came and announced the Good News that it is His Father’s Will that all of us and indeed, all persons in the world are to be saved by Him, who is our Lord and Saviour.  In trying to proclaim this Truth, perform the many miracles in the hope of convincing those who were obstinate and unbelieving, Jesus was condemned to be Crucified like a Criminal for blasphemy.  Does this Suffering of Jesus make any sense; let alone just?!  This is infinitely more tragic than what Jane had to go through, when she and her innocent children have to suffer grievously for her husband Jack’s infidelity and divorce of their marriage.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, let us also remember that even as we may be suffering in different ways, we are not the only ones suffering.  This is because if we look at the world today . . . millions upon millions of people are suffering tragically from poverty, injustices and all forms of evil.  Innocent lives are deprive of clean water, basic education and decent shelter.  And they have no choice, but to board up a space under a bridge or a corner in a street and call it home; they drink contaminated water and hope not to get sick; they expose themselves to all kinds of diseases and hope they don’t die.  They are exploited as migrant workers; sold for child labour and prostitution; abused all time and constantly live in the fear of even more suffering; there is only pain and darkness in their lives without any hope for a better future . . . this list of the evil of suffering in the world can go on . . . but, today, as we celebrate Good Friday, let us remember that every single human being that is suffering in the world is a precious child of God, and is a precious brother and sister of Jesus . . .

And because of this, Jesus has come into this world to save every single one of them . . . especially those millions of people whom the world despise, disfigure and destroy as faceless and useless . . . Can we see the face of Jesus in each of these suffering people when we encounter them?  In other words, my brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s celebration of Good Friday Service will only make greater sense if we are able to open our hearts more widely to receiving God’s Grace to see, value and accept every human person as a child of God, and a brother and sister of Christ.  Can we do this? 

And so, as I conclude, let us remember that as we reflect on the suffering of the world and our own pain and suffering in life, whatever they may be, let us remember that our own life is not the only life that matters in this world.  Millions, billions of lives are also suffering . . . And one of the main causes of suffering is because we do not respect people sufficiently enough to value them as someone whom we should care about . . . let alone accept and see them as a child of God and as a brother and sister in Christ . . .

And so, if our hearts are cold, our view of people are prejudiced and if our faith in Jesus is only for our own good and not the good and salvation of others, then this Good Friday Service of participating the Passion and venerating the Cross should strongly remind us that the Gospel of Christ is about embracing the COMPASSIONATE LOVE of CHRIST in our hearts and to keep it alive. . . as Jesus kept it alive even at the point of His Death when hanging on His Cross, and seeing all those who have condemned and crucified Him, prayed, “Father, Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  

Can we do this and forgive those who have hurt and harmed us deeply?  Would people who are suffering like Jane find a place in her heart to forgive her unfaithful husband?  And if so, then our pain and suffering will turn into meaningful challenges that allow the Grace of Jesus’ Compassionate Love to heal and strengthen us and to bring the Good News of Salvation to all peoples through us, . . . and as such, allow the Holy Spirit of Christ to transform our world into a place of HOPE rather than a battlefield of pain and suffering, and division and destruction.

Msgr Philip Heng, S.J.

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