April 19, 2019 [ Good Friday]
• Isaiah 52:13-53:12 • Psalm 31 • Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 • + John 18:1-19:42 •
[_01_] On my first full day – a Sunday – that I was a priest, I was at church for my first Mass of Thanksgiving.
It was May 28, 2006.
I share this episode as an example of “being let go”. Someone let me go. My father “let me go.”
After the mass-in-church, a friend came up to congratulate me and also offer his heartfelt advice that when I speak to people – i.e., from the microphone like now at church – or just in general – I should not “talk at people” …i.e., I should not talk down to people, I should allow people to interrupt me, to respond. It was good advice on first day. I often think about it and wonder if I am actually following this advice.
Now, at the very moment of this 1st-day-as-a-priest conversation and advice, my own father was standing nearby and overheard the whole thing. My father thought this
advice – on my very first day – as a priest was a little over the top, a little much. So, my father intervened and said… “OK, that’s enough …give him a break… in other words, take it easy…”
So, I was rescued – I was “let go” by my father, in this case. I was not a child; I was an adult when this happened. Nevertheless, my father thought it was important to “let me go.”
[_02_] There are countless ways in which parents intervene for their children, whether the child is in middle school or in middle age.
It’s nice to be “let go.”
[*** Pause ***]
[_03_] “Let them go.” “Let these men go.”
Jesus was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he died.
Jesus was not alone; he was with his disciples.
Nevertheless, he wanted his disciples to be released, to be let go. Let them go. They were also “recently ordained as his priests and companions”.
Jesus wanted them – at this point – to be let go. Its urgency is similar to Moses before the Exodus speaking to Pharaoh in Egypt, “let my people go”.
Its urgency is similar that of a parent advocating for her child, or a friend trying to help someone out of a difficulty. Let him go. Let her go.
[_04_] Jesus let his disciples go – wanted his disciples – released precisely because he was substituting himself for their sins, for their punishment. In the law, it would have been double jeopardy to punish the disciples as well.
So, Jesus takes the fall for our faults.
[_05_] Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that Good Friday is a day full of sorrow, of the sorrowful mysteries of our faith. But B16 is also reflecting on Good Friday as a gift of being let go.
Consider that when we fully acknowledge a gift or a favor that someone does for us, we are often tireless in our pursuit of the appropriate thank-you or expression of gratitude. The gift is an awakening.
B16 goes on to say that
“If Good Friday is a day full of sorrow, it is therefore at the same time a particularly propitious day to reawaken our faith, to consolidate our hope and courage so that each one of us may carry our cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and his victory. The liturgy of this day sings: O Crux, ave, spes unica Hail, O Cross, our only hope!” (Benedict XVI, General Audience, 2009 April 8)
[_06_] Yes, the disciples – Peter, James, John and the rest – are “let go” when Jesus is arrested.
We were also let go – forgiven – when Jesus was arrested, put to death and crucified.
The gift, then, is not a call to rest but to respond, by the way in which we endeavor to recognize that we are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy, that we are called to be charitable to others.
And, also it is a reminder to us about how we are to face difficulties, challenges … when we would rather be let go.
Can we – rather than seeking an escape for ourselves – try to let someone else go …to forgive another person…
[_07_] It is a proof of our love for others that we give charitably (which is often recognized) but also that we endure wrongs patiently (which is often not recognized and often more difficult).
Often, it is not noticed that we are enduring a wrong, enduring a fault. No publicity is bad publicity. Alert the media.
Jesus is captured, a captive, convicted. But he is also contending…
And doing so, he is letting us go, so that we may as individual persons – in our relationship to him, take up our cross and follow him.