HOMILY TRANSCRIPT | Manila Archbishop Jose F. cardinal Advincula, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, Manila Cathedral, March 29, 2024, 3 pm

Rev. Msgr. Rolly dela Cruz, our cathedral rector; brothers priests; reverend deacons; our sisters and brothers in the consecrated life; my dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

We gather, in this holiest of days, to gaze at, ponder, and contemplate our Lord Jesus Christ in his ultimate self-offering on the cross. Gripped by the silence and the stillness of today, we allow the volumes of his love to echo and resound in our hearts, to move, disturb, and urge us from within.

For our reflection, let us focus on the trial of Jesus in the praetorium, particularly on his dialogue with Pilate on the question of truth. “What is truth?”, Pilate asks. In a world of fake news, relativism, blatant lying and revisionism, with the creeping dominance of the artificial and superficial, we are invited to contend with, seek, find, and subscribe to the truth – most importantly, the truth about ourselves. Beyond the socio-cultural impositions and politico-economic definitions, in truth, who is man? Who are we?

A few lines later, pointing to Jesus, Pilate would prophetically pronounce: “Ecce homo! Behold, the man!” In other words, he was effectively saying: “This is man. This is the truth about man. This is the truth about you and me”. What truths can we glean from the marred, spurned, pierced, crushed, and condemned Jesus?

On the one hand, looking upon him and his injuries, we decipher all that is wrong about us and the horrendous evil we are capable of. The stripes on his body and the wounds of his heart are the marks of our sinfulness and the brutality of our mean and cruel hearts. While we may point fingers at the antagonists of the first passion, we are invited to an honest introspection: Have we not also been complicit in: betraying a friend, denying a loved one, abandoning the innocent, conniving with the proud, envious, and jealous, washing our hands of accountability, and mocking, striking, and abusing the weak and innocent? Jesus, the victim on the cross, reveals to us our propensity to be death-dealing, in big and small ways.

On the other hand, looking upon him and learning from him, we see the good in us and the potential of who we can still be. Hidden behind the murderous plot and threateneing chorus are glimmers of faith, hope, and love. Confronted with rejection, persecution, and violence, we find Jesus still: pleading for the freedom and safety of his companions during his arrest, healing of the ear of high priest’s slave Malchus, entrusting of Mary to the beloved disciple, and drinking of the cup that the Father gave him in absolute obedience and devotion. Our Lord teaches us that it is possible to love and to serve not only during the best of times, but also during the worst of times, with crown of thorns, nails, cross, and all. Jesus, the victor on the cross, reveals to us our capacity to be life-giving even in the land of death, to unleash the divine in the human by transcending the limits of the sinful and the selfish to be determinedly other-centered. He reminds us that God is in us, that God dwells within us. As one song of the Jesuit, Fr. Arnel Aquino, goes:

Deep in our hearts, in our souls, in all we are,
dwells God, eternal God, self-giving God, all powerful love
More than we ever know or may believe
The truth remains that deep within us dwells God

As God dwells in us, so does he dwell in our neighbors. Jesus, the servant on the cross, directs our attention to the inviolable dignity and infinite value of those whom he served, most especially the sick, the sinful, the suffering, the poor, the little ones, and the outcasts. Whenever we fail to recognize and uphold this truth, we become agents of condemnation, oppression, and death like Pilate. As Jesus lived his whole life according to the meaning of the divine I AM, by which he introduced himself in our gospel today, he also invites us to tell our brothers and sisters who are scourged and crucified by life, that I AM WHO AM HERE FOR YOU, quite unlike Peter’s I AM NOT’s.

Brothers and sisters, confronted with the Crucified, we are also put on trial today. “Ecce homo! Behold, the man!” The cross unmasks our sinfulness and reveals our true calling. Yes, we are constantly surrounded, influenced, and victimized by the corruption and denigration of sin. But, we are also capable of resisting sin and living an alternative response that routes and redeems evil. Jesus on the cross invites us to transformation and reconfiguration toward the path of authentic humanity. Can we live up to our truth as imago Dei as revealed by the Crucified one? Can we be like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who emerged from secrecy and darkness to the light of courageous discipleship and service to the Truth?

Will we falter and fail along the way? Maybe so. But we also find in the Crucified an eternal offer of merciful and loving embrace. Through his cross, he tells us: “I AM WHO AM HERE FOR YOU”, for all eternity. In the words of our second reading: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help”. He just awaits our return to his eternally opened arms.

Let this crowned king rule our lives toward a situation where the truth and will of God reigns. Like our crucified king, let us testify to the truth of who we truly are – children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit. With Jesus, we pray: “Father, into your hands we commend our spirit”. Amen. (Photo by Kyler Bernardo/RCAM-AOC | Photogallery)

 

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