Good Friday Service
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; Gospel John 18:1-19:42
Our Sinfulness . . . Jesus' Sufferings!

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 30 March 2018

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we commemorate the Suffering and Death of Jesus in our solemn Good Friday service, let us remember that the reason why Jesus has to suffer so much is because of the reality of the SIN in my heart, the SIN in your hearts, and the pervasiveness of SIN all over the world. 

If we do not first accept this REALITY and admit with humility and accept our responsibilities for the division and the destruction we have caused through our SIN, then our Good Friday celebration would be superficial and meaningless, and it would just be another routine yearly ritual that we participate in, and we will not experience the grace of the CONVERSION of our hearts, that God Wills of you and of me, and indeed of all sinners in the church and in the world. 

As sin is a reality, I would like us to reflect on the story I am about to tell you; and during the narration, I would like us to imagine the possibility of such happenings or similar happenings in our families, relationships and painful situations in life.

David loved his son Jack very much, and brought him up with love and gave him the very best of everything in life.  However, Jack grew up and mixed with the wrong type of people.  David and his wife have sleepless night worrying about their son and often cry themselves to bed as they are totally lost on what to do. 

Jack refused to listen to his father’s advice, and eventually committed crimes that even involved drugs and killing.  Jack was arrested and imprisoned, and charged for murder and is sentenced to death.  David and his wife visited Jack in the prison and sadly saw that Jack was not even fully remorseful for all the crimes that he had committed.  In fact, Jack was trying to use his contacts to get himself out of the imprisonment and the death sentence. 

As David was so deeply saddened by what was happening to Jack, he could not take the suffering anymore, he went to the police and offered himself to take the place of his son.  Eventually, even as David was innocent, arrangements were made that Jack could be set free, and David was imprisoned and sentenced to death in place of his son Jack.  On the day of the execution, Jack turned up.  He hugged his mother, who was crying uncontrollably.  And as David was hung, Jack looked on in silence and went away . . . and never contacted his mother since that day . . . Many years later, Jack’s mother found out that Jack never changed his lifestyle . . . he continued to commit crimes and as he used to . . . Jack’s mother died soon after that and Jack did not even give his mother a decent burial . . . as he did not acknowledge her as his mother.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, the story has two very distinct parts to it: David’s love for his son Jack is total and unconditional.  Jesus’ Suffering and Death, for the sake and Salvation of all peoples is infinitely more Compassionate and Forgiving than the love that David had for his son and indeed any form of human love.  And in dying for our Sins, it is Jesus’ hope (as it was David’s hope for Jack) that we change our lives for the better. . . And this Good Friday service that we are participating in is precisely to remind us of our need to renew our love for Jesus who is willing to die for our sake and salvation.

In the second aspect of the tragic story is Jack’s sinful ways of living: if such attitudes and evil is not checked and allowed to fester in our hearts, then the evil and destruction that can come out of sin can have no limits and bounds.  We know that this is true because if we only open our eyes and look at what is happening in families, in marriages, in relationships and the destruction in the world, this tragic story in many ways is a general reflection or a symbol of the evil and sin that we find so pervasive in the world.  For this I would like to quote a few global examples from the United Nations sources.

First, Around 2015, the UN pleaded with the world to come to the rescue of Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria.  It said, "We stand at a critical point in history . . . facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN," (ref. UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said Friday.)  "Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine.  Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease." (ref: CNN – Faith Karimi)

Second, the world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago.  But close to a billion people go to sleep hungry every night.  The last time a global survey was attempted – by the United Nations in 2005 – an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide.  As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing (Habitat, 2015).

Third, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016.

Fourth, 767 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day.  While we need some $30 billion to address the poverty in the world, in contrast, let us note that in 2015, the total global cosmetic market was worth approximately 203 billion euros.  Our priorities have turned upside down.

Fifth, the Global Trends compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.  The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries.

Sixth, the Abortion Worldwide Report (Jacobson and Johnston, 2017) limited to reported data and well - constrained estimates, show a current rate of 12.5 million abortions per year globally.  Fihe Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization have published estimates for total worldwide abortions that are typically 2 - 4 times higher than our figures. . . which works out to be around 40-50 million a year or some 700,000 to 800,000 abortions per week, or some 100,000 human beings killed daily! My brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard some of the statistics of what is happening in the world, can we say such horrors and tragedies of the world do not affect our faith?   Yet, many of us may have the tendency to brush them aside and sub-consciously say to ourselves, “These are global problems in the world . . . What can I do?  I am only an individual?”  When St Mother Theresa visited one of the very big slums in one of the American cities, he remarked to the Mayer that her Missionary of Charities Sisters would be able to live in the slums and help these poor and needy.  The mayor remarked sarcastically, “Mother, with respect, what can your sisters do for such a great and dire need?”  Mother Theresa replied, “One at a time.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ, let us remind ourselves that, if we call ourselves Christians, and are disciples of Jesus in today’s world, then we have to remember that the quality of the way we live our Christian faith daily would affect our families, loved ones and indeed the suffering people in the world.  As such, our love for Jesus cannot be limited to only the care of our own needs.  The suffering in the world must affect the faith we live and our relationship with Jesus.  This is because Jesus suffered and died for all peoples; every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, and as such we have to be responsible for the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters who are suffering so much in the world. 

It is important that we contemplate the Suffering and Death of Christ.  That is why it makes such good sense to pray with the Crucifix and have images of the Suffering Christ in our rooms and homes.  We all need images to help remind ourselves of how much Suffering Jesus went through out of His Compassionate Love for us.  And this is precisely why we are here today, as we celebrate Good Friday . . .

As I conclude, let us also remind ourselves that if we live our Christian faith with the attitude that we first care for ourselves and then only for others, then clearly we are living a superficial faith; not the faith that Jesus proclaimed and died for as the Good News.  And a superficial faith will surely not bring us the true and deep happiness and fulfilment that God wants to give us.  The sufferings in the world today, is due to the sin of humanity; the sin of selfishness and the evil that destroys families, lives and God’s creation in the world. 

And so, a good question for us to reflect on today is, “Will this Good Friday Service bring about a conversion of hearts . . . that we will truly help us become the Christ-like person who is willing to love others unconditionally, like David for his son, Jack, and most importantly, like Jesus, who gave Himself up for our sake and salvation; in the hope that through His Death and Resurrection, all can be saved.

If so, then our lives will surely bring Christ Peace, Love and Happiness in our homes, and through such Christ-like living make our world a better place to live in, for our brothers and sisters who are suffering and dying by the millions daily.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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