I repeat this homily of 2016, partly because I did not preach today, and partly because Good Friday of 2016 was so special and I want to tell you about it, partly because the unique nature of that day will never occur in our lifetime. The next time it will happen again, you and I will already be dead.
CREATION, INCARNATION AND REDEMPTION (MARCH 25TH)- TODAY: A HOMILY ON GOOD FRIDAY, 2016
The Good Friday of 2016 was somewhat unique in the sense that it fell on 25th March, which ordinarily is the Solemnity of the annunciation. The same thing happened three times in the 20th century, but this is the only time it will happen this century.
Last century, it happened in 1921, being the first Good Friday in the lifetime of Pope John Paul II who was born in May 1920. It happened again in 1932 and also in 2005 (believe it or not), 8 days to the death of Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul II himself watched the ceremony on his television. So, the first and last Good Fridays in the life of Pope John Paul II occurred on March 25th.
Pope John Paul II died on the eve of the feast of the divine mercy which is second Sunday of Easter. Since in the Jewish tradition, Saturday evening is the beginning of Sunday, we can also say that he died on the feast of divine mercy. Pope John Paul II is a pope of divine mercy and it is only fitting that he died on this day.
This year, as we celebrate the Year of Mercy, we also celebrate the only Good Friday in our century which will occur on March 25th.
CREATION: According to the Jewish tradition, Abraham sacrificed his son on March 25th. According to the same tradition, this sacrifice happened on the same day God created the world, the same day he said “Let there be light”. That is why in Revelation 13:8, the Lamb was said to have already been slain from the foundation of the world. It means that the day God created the World, Jesus already died on the cross. This can be understood, not in historical terms but in terms of eternity, that to God, there is no yesterday, today and tomorrow, no before, now and later. It is always now.
INCARNATION: Sometimes we think that the date of 25th March was chosen for the annunciation because Christmass is 25th of December. However, according to Pope Benedict XVI, it is rather 25th December chosen as day of Jesus’s birth because of the conception which took place March 25th.
REDEMPTION: Another shocking thing is that the feast of the Good Thief is never celebrated. His feast day is actually March 25th. But because it occurs on the day of the annunciation, it is never celebrated. Why is his feast day March 25th? Saints are usually celebrated on the day of their death. According to the Tradition, the Good Thief died on March 25th, hence the choice of that date as his feast day. This means that Jesus also died on the same day. However, the dating of Good Friday is done using the lunar system. When Jesus said to the Good Thief (St. Dismas) “Today, you will be with me in Paradise”, he did not just mean “Today” in the past. This “Today” is a symbol of eternity, it is a “Today” that has no end.
From this, we can conclude that the creation, incarnation and redemption all have the same date. The reason they have the same date is not because that is necessarily the exact date on which they all happened. It is in order to show that to God, there is no sequence of events, everything happens at once. God is eternal. For us who are in time, we experience things bit by bit and we have one thing happening before another. But in eternity (which is the realm of God), everything happens at one moment. That is why the book of Revelation can dare to say that the lamb was already slain from the day of Creation.
After the death of Jesus, we are told that he descended into hell. The understanding is that he went to preach to all those who lived before him. So the death of Jesus is not only for those who lived in his time but also for those who lived before and after him. This is only possible for God. That is why he describes himself as “I AM”.
I AM: This is the name of God revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus. When the people came to arrest Jesus he said “I AM” and each time he says that, they fall to the ground. Whatever is in that name, it is powerful enough and their falling to the ground can be seen as an act of worship, even if they have been forced to do so. Jesus also said “Before Abraham was, I am.” and this made the people furious with him. They knew that by this he was saying he is God, because only God can exist for all eternity.
If He is truly the I AM, then on the day of his death, he had my name in his mind, as well as your name, even though we were not born at that stage. That is why Pope John Paul II said “We have every right to believe that our generation, too, was included in the words of the Mother of God when she glorified that Mercy shared in ‘from generation to generation’ by those who allow themselves to be guided by the fear of God.”
There is a movie that comes to mind “Groundhog’s day” where the actor was waking up everyday and it was the same day as it was yesterday and even days before. He continued to experience the same day over and over again.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday is like one day. This is why no mass is celebrated on Good Friday. The understanding is that the ceremony began on Holy Thursday only comes to an end on Holy Saturday. Only with God can you have one day which is three days long. When we celebrate the Holy Mass, we enter into eternity. What we do in memory of Christ becomes more than just a remembrance. It is a reenactment. It is to remember something while at the same time making it present. Jesus has died once and for all, but at every mass, we not only remember his death, we experience it. This is possible because with God (in eternity), what happened two thousand years ago is happening today. In God, past present and future is all the same moment. So when Jesus was dying two thousand years ago, he was dying for those born before him as well as those born after him. He was thinking of me on that cross, he was thinking of you as well. Through all Generations, everlasting is his mercy. This is why Creation, incarnation and redemption call all happen on one same date March 25th.
In 2016, I made sure that unique Good Friday is special. It is past now, but today is Good Friday. The next time Good Friday will be on the 25th of March it will be the year 2157. If you are still alive then, I wish you well. Otherwise, I hope we can celebrate it in heaven.