Fr. Bryan Howard
Good Friday Solemn Service of the Lord – 30 March 2018
Why do we do all of this every year? Why do we gather together during Holy Week? We believe that these rituals, these celebrations, remember something that happened in the past, and prepare us for something that’s going to happen in the future. On Good Friday we remember and celebrate the suffering and death of Jesus, and we prepare ourselves for the crosses that we have to bear in our lives, and especially for the end of our lives. We learned this from the Jews, because they did the same things.
All of these things happened during the ancient feast of Passover. In Passover the Jewish people remember when God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Moses told the people that God was going to send one final plague on Egypt. Because Pharaoh had ordered the murder of the sons of the Israelites, so God would send the angel of death to take the firstborn son of every family. The Israelites were told to each offer a year old male lamb, without spot or blemish, and to spread the blood on the door posts, so the angel of death would know to pass over their houses. Then they would roast the lamb and eat it with bitter herbs, wine, and unleavened bread.
To remember this, the Jewish people would all gather in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. They would go to the temple and offer the lamb, then they would roast the lamb and eat it with bitter herbs, wine, and unleavened bread. It was on the feast of passover that Jesus was crucified. Remember what St. John the Baptist said when He first saw Jesus, which we say in every Mass, “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” And latter in the Mass, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Jesus is the lamb of God. As Jesus was stretching His arms out on the Cross, the lambs were being offered in the Temple. When they prepared them to be roasted, they would take two sticks, one they would tie down the back of the lamb, and the other would be tied to its front legs, holding them out to the side, in the shape of a cross. And what time was it when this was happening? The lambs were offered in the middle of the afternoon. The Bible tells us when Jesus took His last breath, about 3:00 in the afternoon. At the same time. None of this is an accident. In God there are no coincidences. Everything has a meaning and a person. From the very beginning God knew how He was going to save us.
In the Exodus, the Israelites were saved from slavery to Pharaoh, but Jesus saves us from slavery to sin. The passover lamb saved the people from physical death, but Jesus, the Lamb of God, saves us from spiritual death. We are not now being prepared to enter some promised land, like the Israelites were, we are being prepared to enter heaven.
Now, you probably thought that was all of the connections, but I want to point out one more. On Passover, after the day was over and all the offering done, they had to clean up, so they would get buckets of water, and splash them all through the Temple area and on the altar, and it would drain through the side of the Temple, through the right side, and form a stream of blood and water. After His death, to prove that Jesus was dead, the soldier took his lance and stabbed Jesus through His right side, and from the would came a stream of blood and water, signifying the saving waters of baptism and the Precious Blood of the New Covenant. The Bible says, “The life is in the blood.” We receive the life of Christ into our own souls every time we draw near to the Cross.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.