Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki consecrates the Eucharist during Good Friday Mass on April 2 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. (Photo by David Bernacchi)
Imagine for a moment that some magnanimous individual wrote a check and wiped away the trillions of dollars of debt owed by the United States government.
This was the scenario Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki asked the faithful to envision in his Good Friday homily April 2.
“Our country is currently $21 trillion in debt. It’s hard for me to imagine a million of anything — and yet 21 trillion?” he said. “And remember, this debt passes on to our children and their children. It affects everything we do. It has us chained to the economics of our age.”
“Imagine now if someone were to emerge and wipe away the debt; writing a check or performing an action that releases us all from the responsibility to pay,” he continued. “Every street, plaza, town hall and community center would be named and dedicated to that person. They would justify the adulation because that person saved us from the pain and enslavement of our actions.”
Our debt to God, which dated to the very origins of mankind in the Garden of Eden, was even more staggering an amount to owe — something that “could never have been paid by our children’s children’s children,” said the archbishop. It was a debt that was simply out of our power to repay.
The action that frees us from that debt is one that cannot be memorialized enough. The cross — “the supreme sign of love and life” — is the standard beneath which we must live our earthly lives.
“Perhaps more than other years, we need the cross and its statement that our God is with and for us,” said the archbishop, noting that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering has intensified the world over, forcing humanity to confront its own mortality and leaving many feeling abandoned by God. The cross is the proof that this is not the case. “Yet the sign of the cross boldly states that God has been here with us and for us during our most difficult times. As we suffer the pains of this world, we take them to the cross and join them to the pains of Jesus. It is only in and through the suffering of Jesus that we find meaning in our own personal sufferings.”
The archbishop also referred to the words of famous Christian writer C.S. Lewis, who argued in his book “Mere Christianity” that Jesus Christ cannot be dismissed as simply a great moral teacher and nothing more. If he is not the Son of God, Lewis postulated, he must then be a lunatic or a demon.
“If the teaching of Jesus led the man to his death, for this he should be pitied, not followed. If he provoked the Romans and the Jewish hierarchy, then he was truly a madman; he was insane and should be ignored. If Jesus manipulated people with false promises then he was a devil and should have been destroyed. If we align ourselves with Mohammad, who saw Jesus as a prophet, then we understand like most prophets who seem to irritate the status quo that in the end, they become martyred. If Jesus was just a nice, ethical man with principles for living, why are his principles any more influential on the living than Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hume or Dewey?”
But if Jesus was, as he claimed, the son of God, “then his death was the greatest statement of unconditional love our God have ever made for us on our behalf.”
“In his suffering and death, we are joined to him completely and we can never say that we have been abandoned by our God in the time of our greatest need,” said the archbishop.
Archbishop Listecki concluded by reminding the faithful that “the tomb awaits all of us.”
“But the empty tomb is offered to those who believe — a sign of the completion of God’s mission through his son, Jesus Christ, and joins us to what lies ahead.”