Here is our translation of the homily given by His Eminence Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City on Good Friday, April 10, 2009:
"For us, Christ was obedient even onto death, death on a cross." (Ph 2,8)
Death has just struck the population of Abruzzo in Italy, the unexpected earthquake causing the death of about 300 victims in the city of Aquila. This is a brutal reminder of the fragility of the human condition! The daily news bring us announcements of death from many various causes: wars, terrorist attacks, bombs, family tragedies, crazy gunmen, crimes of passion, suicides; you could go on and on, the list is endless and the horror escalates and amplifies in the measure that humans eliminate God from their lives. Death seems to reign on earth even if its power, that is founded and nourished by sin, has been dethroned and conquered by Jesus of Nazareth; the immolated Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world, victorious over death.
We have just heard the prophecy of the suffering Servant in the book of Isaiah that was written more than 2,500 years ago, and the story of the Passion of Christ according to Saint John, who accomplished this prophecy and inaugurated this Christian era. The prophecy speaks about the treatment inflicted on the prophet because he disturbed the powerful of this world: He was despised and rejected, abandoned by all, a Man of suffering, who was familiar with suffering and resembled the lepers that we turn away from; we have despised and counted Him as nothing. And yet, it was our sufferings that He endured, our hurts that He carried. It is for our faults that He was pierced, and He was crushed for our sins. The Lord took upon Himself the sins of us all.
The Passion of Jesus according to Saint John shows the suffering Servant in majesty, like a king, but for whom royalty is not of this world. Jesus was not the victim of a snare or a well-organized police operation. He delivered Himself to death, and into the hands of sinners through obedience to the Father who decided to shut all men into disobedience in order to bring each of them mercy.
The letter to the Hebrews completes the interpretation of the death of Jesus in designating Him as the Great Priest par excellence. He, who by offering his unique sacrifice, once for all, obtained eternal salvation for all those who obey Him. Christ, during the days of His mortal life, presented with great cries and tears his prayer and supplication to God who could save Him from death and because he was submissive in everything, his request was granted. Even though he was the Son, he still learned obedience by the sufferings of his Passion; and when brought to perfection, he became the cause of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Brothers and sisters in faith, we have just celebrated together the Passion and Death of Jesus because we believe in Him and in His mission of salvation. According to the Scriptures, He is the Saviour Messiah, the King of kings who says: "I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth." (John 18:37.) The Truth that Jesus was speaking of was not an abstract philosophy, but his own Truth, his reality as the Eternal Son of the Father, of Whom the mission is to reconcile the world with God in revealing the Love of the Father, tender and merciful, for all sinners. We recognize this truth by our own repentance and the reception of the pardon of God. This is in this sense that we kiss the Cross (which we will do in a few moments). This public witness of our faith normally adds to the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation during this appropriate time of the liturgical year.
Bearing witness to the faith is not obvious nowadays. We live in an post-Christian era, where the affirmation of the truth of Christ is confined to the private domain. As the dominating culture draws away from the faith, another spirit than that of Christ imposes its law in these secular cultures. A spirit of profit without control, of performance and autonomy without limit, an all-out spirit of equality that multiplies its victims, especially among the poor and others who have no defence. Think of the victims of the AIDS virus in Africa, so poorly assisted and respected, the abused women who are condemned to silence, the hungry in the Third-World countries who see those responsible for the financial and economic crisis leave the scene very well-paid. Think also of our own treason and repudiation, of the waste of the resources of the planet, our tolerance in the face of poverty, our apathy in defending the values and the truth of our religion, and our complicity in letting the public power restrain our religious liberty in the schools or decorate promoters of the sacrifice of children in the womb of their mothers.
All of these facts contrast with the Kingdom of God that Jesus came to establish by His Cross. We ask God to forgive us, first for our own sins, then for the sins of those who crucify Christ in their neighbour without knowing what they do. Jesus prayed and suffered for each of us on the Cross. He loved us to the end and to the extreme of love. He gave the response of love to his Father in our name, the response that God waits for to save us from hell. Thank God for receiving the Sacrifice of his Son and for being so merciful in regard to all of humanity. Advance then with great assurance to the all-powerful God who gives us grace to obtain mercy and receive the grace of his help in times of need.
"O admirable power of the Cross!", exclaims Saint Leo the Great, "O inexplicable glory of the Passion! In Him appeared a great light of the judgement of the world and the victory of the crucified!" Even when the power of death frightens us and when its victims afflict us, let us hold firm to the affirmation of our faith. The high priest that we have is not incapable of sharing our weaknesses; he knew suffering as we do, but did not sin. Let us lean on him for support, so that we may flee sin and rise up again through the strength of his grace.
Christians of today, like Jesus, we are chosen and sent into the world to bear witness to the truth. Our mission is not easy in a world that is a slave to money, that tolerates only relative truths that can be manipulated at will by the powerful. To pretend possessing an absolute truth becomes insupportable and a subject of exclusion. The Truth of Jesus, Son of God and Saviour of the world, no longer has a place in public areas. If we bear witness openly, we must be ready to pay the price of our impertinence by suffering derision, ostracism and persecution. Even the children at school have this sad experience. Pope Benedict XVI is now the principle target of this intolerance, he who presents himself according to his episcopal motto, as the humble co-operator of the Truth. Pray for him, dear brothers and sisters in the faith that unites us, pray for each other so that our life will be as coherent as his and do not renounce the Cross of Christ.
When you receive the Holy Communion of the Crucified Christ today, tell him of your gratitude for the forgiveness of our sins and let us engage ourselves to follow him on the way of the Cross. It is a way of humiliation in the eyes of the world, but a triumphant march of Love in the eyes of God. Amen!