Imitating Death: Good Friday Homily

What we offered Our Lord, and what He graciously took from us, was the consequence of the contagion of sin. We offered a body capable of death, a body incapable of resisting disease, a body riddled with mortality. And He decidedly embraced our gift.

  • We offered death when we determined that our fears are greater than our hope.
  • We offered death when we asserted that our choices are greater than our sacrifices.
  • We offered death when we insisted that our values are greater than Truth, and our morals are better than the life of others.

What we offered to our Lord was nothing sustainable, nothing healthy; and everything that led to the grave. And that is what Our Lord lovingly took from us and knit to His divine nature.

He did this not to give us a way to escape viruses, but to help us live with them and live through them. He took our death, not to lessen the evil but to transform hell to heaven. He took our mortality, not to make living easier but to make Life—the Life that He so deeply wishes to live in us, the Life that He is—to make this authentic life accessible and abundant.

Our response should be gratitude. Not to demand better or more. Not to accuse Him of torturing us. Not to complain about why He’s letting this thing go on.

Our response should be gratitude. A gratitude that is not simply looking for a silver lining, or trying to make the best of things, or learning some lesson.

Genuine gratitude begins within the heart. And then works its way out through the hands and mouth.

Heart-felt gratitude recognizes that we have a right to nothing from Our Lord. Because what we’ve offered Him is death. So heart-felt gratitude acknowledges that all that Our Lord does and doesn’t do, all that He gives and withholds, all that He arranges and permits—all of this is for our good so that we reach out to Him, so that we yearn for Him.

All Our Lord does and permits is about more than you and me. It’s about us—all humanity, and even more, all creation.

Gratitude begins within the heart, within the soul. But if it stops in the mind or in the heart—then gratitude dies. If our gratitude is only a sincere, ‘Thank you,’ then it fades as it leaves our lips.

True gratitude for all that Our Lord has done; true gratitude for Him taking our death-loaded gift—true gratitude is imitating and putting into practice toward others what He has done for us.

Imitating the sacrifice. That’s what the Psalmist points us to. To give thanks to the Lord, I will take the cup of salvation—which is inseparable from the cup of suffering. For salvation comes through suffering. To taste salvation is the drink down suffering. As Our Lord did.

I will receive this saving cup, embrace this salvific cup, drink down this salutary cup—drink it down to the dregs for the sake of another. That’s Our Lord’s way. And we give thanks when we imitate Him by making His way our way.

What this looks like was described by one of our bishops during a plague many years ago. While others were intent on self-protection, self-preservation, and avoiding the sick at all costs, this saintly bishop reports that:

Most of our brother-Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of another. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. (St Dionysius of Alexandria)

Like these passion-bearers before us, we become Christ-like when we live without fear, not because we think that the news reports are overblown, or the fears of others unreasonable, or the threat not real. We imitate Christ by relentlessly and unselfishly helping those in need. We imitate not by hoarding our goods and wallowing in our anxiety, but by emptying our pantries and offering whatever compassion we can. We imitate Christ by heeding the rules, yet for the sake of others; and by not letting this present evil paralyze our ability to support.

The death of Our Lord is our death. He dies our death to free us, both from our future death and from our present dread and apprehension.

And in His suffering and death, we see our way of life. How we can live without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him and for others, all the days of our life.