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Sunday:       Good Friday - Celebration of the Lord's Passion.
Date:         April 14, 2017.
Year:         A
The readings: [Is. 52:13 to 53:12; Heb. 4:14-16, 5:7-9; Jn. 18:1 to 19:42]
The message:  Why do you strike me?
Prepared by:  Catholic Doors Ministry
Total words:  1161

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** The readings follow the sermon.

First of all my brothers and sisters in Jesus, in view of the fact that the Gospel Reading was quite long and knowing that some of the little children have short attention spans, today, I have shortened my homily.

Most of us are quite familiar with today's readings because every year, on Good Friday, we hear the same readings regarding the Passion of Jesus. During Lent, over and above reconciling ourselves to the Lord God while preparing ourselves for the coming of Easter Sunday that commemorates the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we reviewed the events that led to the Passion of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, there is no necessity for me to review all those events again.

Today, the passage from the Gospel of John that stood out in my mind was, "Why do you strike me?" [Jn. 18:23] I find it very difficult to perceive how a human being could dare to strike the face of his God, his Creator, our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle man who continuously shined in love and mercy throughout His ministry on earth. What crime did Jesus commit to deserve the sentence of the death penalty? What evil acts did He do to antagonize so many to the point of they seeking His death without disregard for the value of human life?

We are all very familiar with the Bible passage that says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." [Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9] When we consider the death of Jesus, we automatically associate it with our salvation. We remember that Jesus died for us. We remember that He died for all of our sins. If I was to ask a group of Christians, young or old, "How did Jesus suffer for us?", most likely ninety-nine percent of them would answer, "He died on the cross for us." While we remember this truth, do we remember the many other sufferings that Jesus willingly endured for us?

Do we remember that Jesus was betrayed by someone that He knew for three years and who He loved? [Mk. 14:44] Most of us can associate with the feeling of being betrayed, of losing a friend. One's trust is broken. Friendship comes to an end.

Do we remember the lies that were testified against Jesus? [Mk. 14:56]

How about when some of the people spit on Jesus? [Mk. 14:65]

When Jesus was repeatedly hit by the palms of hands? [Mk. 14:65]

When He was whipped and He shed His Sacred Blood? [Mt. 27:26]

When He had a Crown of Thorns placed on His head? [Jn. 19:2]

Do we remember when that for our sake, Jesus was stripped of His clothing? [Mt. 27:28] What embarrassment He endured for us!

Do we remember when Jesus was mocked as the King of the Jews? [Mt. 27:29]

When He was hit on the head with a reed? [Mt. 27:30]

When they mocked Jesus by bowing on their knees before Him? [Mk. 19-20]

When they casted lots for His vesture? [Mt. 27:35]

When He was beaten by the soldiers? [Jn. 19:3]

When He had to carry the heavy wooden Cross of our sins while He was in such great pains? [Jn. 19:17]

Do we stop and think of the tremendous pains that Jesus must have endured when the nails perforated His tender hands and feet? [Jn. 19:18] As soon as we get a sliver in one of our fingers, we complain of the pain. So great is the pain that some appear to be dancing when they are jumping up and down while wiggling their finger. Is not a sliver in the finger nothing compared to a nail in the palm of the hand?

Do we remember that when Jesus was thirsty, the soldier gave Him a sponge full of vinegar to drink? [Mk. 15:36] Have any of you tried drinking vinegar to see what taste it leaves in your mouth afterwards? Would anyone in their right mind give a glass of vinegar to their children, their spouse, their parents?

Who could have imagined this cruelty? Who could have imagined that Jesus would be called to suffer so much for each and everyone of us? Could Mary have imagined it? Could His disciples have imagined it? No, none of them could have imagined the extreme abuse that Jesus endured for each and everyone of us. In fact, they must have all felt helpless against the Romans who were being manipulated by the religious elders. They must have been scared as Peter was scared when he denied knowing Jesus. Deep within, they must have been terribly hurt. While we can imagine the hurt of being betrayed by a friend or the hurt that is associated with seeing someone slapped in the face, how much hurt did the Blessed Virgin Mary and the disciples of Jesus endure in their hearts when they saw the abuse that was afflicted upon the Lord? None of them could have imagined that the earthly life of Jesus would come to such an end.

About two thousand years ago, Jesus asked, "Why do you strike me?" Is He asking us the same thing today? Do we strike at Jesus? While we may not strike at Him physically, do we wound His Sacred Heart by our failure to strive against the sinful nature? When we fall short of showing love towards others, are we not striking Jesus? When we refuse to feed the hungry, are we not starving Jesus? When we turn away the strangers, are we not turning away Jesus? When we refuse to take care of the sick or refuse to visit the prisoners, are we not striking Jesus? My brothers and sisters, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." {Mt. 25:40] Last week, last month or last year, were we guilty of striking Jesus? If so, can we consider ourselves holier than those who shared in the crucifixion of the Lord? How pitiful our souls must be!

How blessed we are that the merciful Lord Jesus has given us the Sacrament of Confession so we may cleanse our souls of the offenses that we have personally committed against the Lord Jesus.

Today and tomorrow, as recommended by the Church, most of us are participating in a fast to honour the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus and to prepare ourselves to share more deeply in the joy of His glorious Resurrection. When going home today, let us not forget the details of how Jesus suffered for us before He died on the Holy Cross. Let us never forget it! And let us forever be thankful to Jesus for having carried the Cross of our sins for our salvation and eternal happiness. Indeed, Jesus shall be remembered by us, always remaining in our hearts.

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The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

* * * * * * * * * *

First Reading...

"See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.

Just as there were many who were astonished at him so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals - so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate. Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." [Is. 52:13- 53:12]

* * * * * * * * * *

Second Reading...

"Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." [Heb. 4:14-16; 5:7-9]

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Gospel Reading...

(N) The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

"After they had eaten the supper, Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them,

(J) "Whom are you looking for?"

(N) They answered,

(S2) "Jesus of Nazareth."

(N) Jesus replied,

(J) "I am he."

(N) Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he,"they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them,

(J) "Whom are you looking for?"

(N) And they said,

(S2) "Jesus of Nazareth."

(N) Jesus answered,

(J) "I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go."

(N) This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, "I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me."

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter,

(J) "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

(N) So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter,

(S3) "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?"

(N) He said,

(S1) "I am not."

(N) Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered,

(J) "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said."

(N) When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying,

(S3) "Is that how you answer the high priest?"

(N) Jesus answered,

(J) "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?"

(N) Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him,

(S2) "You are not also one of his disciples, are you?"

(N) He denied it and said,

(S1) "I am not."

(N) One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked,

(S2) "Did I not see you in the garden with him?"

(N) Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

[At this point all may join in singing an appropriate acclamation.]

(N) Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate's headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said,

(S3) "What accusation do you bring against this man?"

(N) They answered,

(S2) "If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you."

(N) Pilate said to them,

(S3) "Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law."

(N) They replied,

(S2) "We are not permitted to put anyone to death."

(N) This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him,

(S3) "Are you the King of the Jews?"

(N) Jesus answered,

(J) "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?"

(N) Pilate replied,

(S3) "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?"

(N) Jesus answered,

(J) "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."

(N) Pilate asked him,

(S3) "So you are a king?"

(N) Jesus answered,

(J) "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

(N) Pilate asked him,

(S3) "What is truth?"

(N) After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them,

(S3) "I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?"

(N) They shouted in reply,

(S2) "Not this man, but Barabbas!"

(N) Now Barabbas was a bandit. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying,

(S2) "Hail, King of the Jews!"

(N) and striking him on the face.

(S2) Pilate went out again and said to them,

(S3) "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him."

(N) So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them,

(S3) "Here is the man!"

(N) When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

(N) Pilate said to them,

(S3) "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him."

(N) They answered him,

(S2) "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."

(N) Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus,

(S3) "Where are you from?"

(N) But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him,

(S3) "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?"

(N) Jesus answered him,

(J) "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

(N) From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out,

(S2) "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."

(N) When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jewish leaders,

(S3) "Here is your King!"

(N) They cried out,

(S2) "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!"

(N) Pilate asked them,

(S3) "Shall I crucify your King?"

(N) The chief priests answered,

(S2) "We have no king but the emperor."

[At this point all may join in singing an appropriate acclamation.]

(N) Then Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate,

(S2) "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'"

(N) Pilate answered,

(S3) "What I have written I have written."

(N) When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another,

(S2) "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it."

(N) This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots." And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother,

(J) "Woman, here is your son."

(N) Then he said to the disciple,

(J) "Here is your mother."

(N) And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, in order to fulfill the scripture, he said,

(J) "I am thirsty."

(N) A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said,

(J) "It is finished."

(N) Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

[All may kneel or stand for a period of silence.]

(N) Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.

Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth. These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." [Jn. 18:1-19:42]

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