Homily for Good Friday (15/4/22)

posted 19 Apr 2022, 01:51 by Parish Office   [ updated 19 Apr 2022, 01:51 ]

“A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, “It is accomplished”; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.”

There are a few things going on here. Firstly, why were they offering Our Lord vinegar? It wasn’t left over from the soldiers eating fish and chips on a Friday. The vinegar was probably the rough wine the soldiers drank, and it was a form of pain relief for those dying of crucifixion, an act of mercy, as it were. But there’s also something else going on as well.

We are Christians, and don’t have a working knowledge of the Passover ritual, but for those that do, I’m told that the description of the Last Supper seems a bit strange. For some reason, Jesus omits drinking the last cup of wine. It might be argued that He had a lot on His mind and simply forgot, but that doesn’t sound right. When He goes to the garden of Gethsemane, Our Lord doesn’t just pray that this suffering might be spared Him, but rather He refers to it as a “cup”. As we heard on Sunday: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.” The theologian Scott Hahn did some research on this, and he came to the conclusion that what this tells us is that it was on the Cross that the Passover celebration was concluded. The final cup was drunk by Christ when He received the so-called “vinegar” on the Cross. So the words that follow, “It is accomplished”, don’t just mean that His suffering on the Cross is completed, but that the Jewish system of sacrifices in the Temple is finished now too, as they have been brought to fulfilment by Christ’s sacrifice. They only had value before because they pointed towards Christ’s sacrifice, and now it has happened, there is no need for any other sacrifices.

But there’s more, because, not only does the Passover ritual extend from the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday through to the Cross on Good Friday, but the celebration of the Mass extends beyond Maundy Thursday as well. Just listen to the words of consecration: “this is my Body, which will be given up for you … this is the chalice of my Blood … which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”. And indeed, the liturgy of the Church expresses this link: we are currently celebrating what is known as the Triduum: three days of celebration which are all linked together: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. The Mass

contains all these, whether it’s a quick weekday Mass with no singing, or a Sunday Mass with an extra reading, Gloria, Creed, bidding prayers and plenty of sung music.

In John’s Gospel, it says that the sponge soaked in vinegar was put on a hyssop stick, whilst Matthew and Mark use the generic term “reed”. Is there any significance in the term “hyssop”? Hyssop was just a general plant that was growing in that area, which could be used for that purpose. It’s a bit like the tradition in this country, before the importation of palm leaves, of using yew branches on Palm Sunday, or olive branches in Italy. But hyssop also goes back to the original Passover ritual. When the sacrificial lamb was slaughtered, hyssop branches were to be dipped into the blood, and the blood was then to be spread around the lintel and doorposts of the Israelites’ dwellings. Hyssop was also used in other forms of ceremonial cleansing (see Lev 14:1-7 and 14:33-53). In the Psalms, referring to forgiveness of sin, it says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 50(51):7). Christ is the One who on the Cross, purifies us of sin – He is the source of all cleansing, keeping us safe from spiritual death.

“A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, ‘It is accomplished’; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.” We are grateful today for all thatq Our Lord did for us. He suffered unimaginable torments so that we could be forgiven. Gratitude is the only appropriate response. And we accompany Him at the Cross, every time we celebrate the Mass.