Good Friday

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

 Good Friday 2018

St. Mary’s Cathedral


Today, our liturgy is dominated by the image of the cross.  It is, of course, a readily recognized religious symbol which we often associate with peaceful church-like settings,  or jewellery fashioned out of silver or gold.  But, for Jesus and his contemporaries, it was not such a benign symbol.  They would have been terrified by the cross, for it was a brutal instrument of torture and death. Death by crucifixion was meant to be a humiliating, horrible, public way of dying, ‘ex crucis’, the root of our word ‘excruciating’.


A question that many might ask is why did Jesus have to experience this painful death?  This is a question that theologians have struggled with for centuries as they have reflected on the concept of atonement.  I found that Pope Emeritus Benedict, in his book on Jesus of Nazareth, offers some helpful insights.  He says that, in the Old Testament, on the Day of Atonement, the blood of animals was sprinkled on the covering of the Ark of the Covenant.   But, he says:  “It is not through the blood of animals touching a holy object that God and man are reconciled.”  It would take more than that, and he proposes a way to look at this:


“In Jesus’s passion all the filth of the world touches the infinitely pure one, the soul of Jesus Christ, and hence touches the Son of God, himself.”  He goes on to say that “while it is usually the case that anything unclean touching something clean renders it unclean, here it is the other way around:  when the world, with all the injustice and cruelty, comes in contact with the infinitely pure one – then he, the pure one, is stronger.  Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love.  Because infinite good is now at hand in the man, Jesus; the counterweight to all wickedness is active within world history.”


Jesus is the counterweight to the sin of the world.  The reality of evil and injustice cannot be simply ignored; it has to be addressed.  He then goes on to say that here “it is not a case of a cruel God demanding the infinite.  It is exactly the opposite: God himself becomes the focus (point) of reconciliation, and, in the person of his Son, takes the suffering upon himself.  God himself grants his infinite purity to the world.  God himself drinks the cup of every horror to the dregs and therefore restores justice through the greatness of his love, which, through suffering, transforms the darkness.”


When Jesus’s horrific death is viewed from this perspective, we can better understand the account of the Passion according to St. John, which does not gloss over the horror and suffering of the crucifixion, but sees there more than pain and defeat.  In St. John’s gospel,  Jesus’s death is not seen as the low point of his life, but as the “hour” for which he has been preparing all his life.  In St. John’s account of the Passion, Jesus is portrayed as self-possessed, undefeated by all that is inflicted upon him.




* There is no account of the Agony in the Garden;

* In the arrest scene, Jesus appears as the one in charge;

* It is the same in the dialogue between him and Pilate;

* There is no need of anyone, including Simon the Cyrene, to help carry the cross;

* And, on the cross, Jesus does not die until he has signified that his task is accomplished. Jesus hands over his breath to the Father – the breath that will animate the new creation;

* Even Pilate’s inscription on the cross, “King of the Jews”, is written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew – the languages of commerce, Roman administration, and of his own people –  an indication that John is proclaiming Jesus as the Universal King.


The Passion according to St. John wants us to understand the great reconciliation that has occurred between God and our world in the death of Jesus on the cross.  The cross is more than an instrument of torture; it is a sign of victory.  John tells us that water and blood poured forth from the side  of Jesus on the cross; water and blood are the signs of baptism and Eucharist, through which all peoples and nations can enter the new temple, Christ’s body, the Church.


In a few moments, we will have an opportunity to individually venerate the Cross.  On this Good Friday, as we venerate the Cross of Christ, may we recall these words from our second reading today and take them to heart:
“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.”



The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.