MAKING SENSE OF DIFFICULT TIMES
– Homilies for a Time of Pandemic –
‘I know that my Redeemer Lives’
Today, we celebrate Jesus taking the path he foretold he must take for the triumph of his Resurrection, namely the path through suffering and death. The Gospel of John makes clear, as do the other gospels, that Jesus chose this path willingly. In John, for example, we heard how 
- Jesus could have walked away when the solders fell down after he told them ‘I am he’.
- Jesus refused to cooperate with Pilate by answering his questions.
In the first reading of this Liturgy, we heard of the Suffering Servant of God who bore the sins of many. Jesus identified himself with this prophecy. He taught that 
… the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus fulfilled this text when he gave up his life on the cross.
Though not sinless like Jesus, we too know the experience of bearing the sins of others. In our case, we have been bearing the sins of criminal priests who abused minors and of bishops who failed to protect the young.
Our sufferings in no way compare with those of survivors. However, we have still suffered embarrassment, humiliation and ridicule within families, wider communities and media.
Jesus the Redeemer
When Jesus spoke of his life being ‘a ransom for many’, he was using the language of a world which knew slavery and redemption. A person could be enslaved for not paying a debt. If another paid the debt, leading to the person’s freedom, they were his or her redeemer. 
Jesus fulfilled the Suffering Servant prophecy by redeeming the human race from sin. Sin was thought of in two senses in those times. The first was sin before God gave the ‘law’ or Ten Commandments, and sin after the law. 
Sin before the law referred to everything in human nature which was not part of God’s original creation. Sin after the law referred to behaviour which broke commandments.
How close am I to Christ my Redeemer?
The foundation of the Christian life is a personal relationship with the Risen Jesus himself. We only come to know others through our personal experiences of them.
Today, we need to reflect upon how close is our personal relationship with Jesus as our Redeemer. We need to ask ourselves whether we are taking all the opportunities to experience his redemptive power in our daily lives.
Jesus conquers sin ‘before the law’
Jesus began his ministry by showing his power to be greater than that of Satan. After rejecting Satan’s temptations,  he proceeded to perform miracles which demonstrated ways his redemptive power can help people in their lives.
A power which heals
Jesus first performed miracles of healing the sick.  He revealed his to be a healing power.
As we reflect this Good Friday upon how Jesus gave his life for us, we need to ask ourselves:
‘Do I seek the redeeming power of the Risen Jesus to heal me in my daily prayer and the Eucharist?’
As we reflect upon our lives in this time when so many of our activities have stopped, we may find life hurts from childhood or a marriage breakdown; from rejected job applications or low self esteem; from ridicule by others or a sense of failure; from betrayal by a friend or a business partner. The possibilities are endless.
Then there is illness. We can experience cures by Jesus if these are for our good – that is, if they will help us on our journey to be with God in the next life, the goal God sees as the ultimate good. 
Otherwise, through Jesus, we can experience comfort and inner peace in illness as we seek his power, particularly though the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Through this Sacrament, we can experience 
- strengthening, peace and courage
- closer union with Jesus’ own sufferings, and the power of his Resurrection to help and support us
- a sense of purpose in our suffering if we offer it for the benefit of others we pray for, or for all people
- the strength to face death if we are dying.
A power which brings inner freedom
Jesus freed cripples and the maimed from various physical disabilities.  He showed his to be a liberating power from what can cripple our efforts to be who Christ calls us to be in our daily lives.
As we reflect on our lives this Good Friday, we need to ask ourselves: ‘Do I seek the redeeming power of the Risen Jesus to free me in my daily prayer and the Eucharist?’
Examples could be a quick temper, a shy personality, a habit that is hard to break; a fear of being unpopular, a vice, a personality weakness, an attitude or a bias. It is for each to know him or herself.
Then again, in the modern world, there are stresses and other experiences which can affect our mental health to the extent that they control aspects of our behaviour. We need professional help, but be afraid, to seek it.
Again, if this is our experience, ‘Do I seek the redeeming power of the Risen Jesus to free me in my daily prayer and the Eucharist?’
A power which gives new ‘sight’
Jesus restored sight to the blind.  There are many levels of blindness or situations in life when we cannot ‘see’.
Many people cannot see the goodness within themselves or others. We can be confused about who we are; our life’s meaning and direction; the path through problems and difficulties.
We may not be able to ‘see’ how to solve a relationship problem; how to discipline a teenager without risking alienation; whether it is best to take out a mortgage. We may be blinded by prejudice, racism or a person’s past.
As we reflect in this Good Friday celebration of the Risen Jesus as Redeemer, we need to ask ourselves ‘Do I seek his redeeming power so that I can see through the blindnesess in my life?’
A power which frees from Satan’s power
Jesus taught that Satan is the great deceiver.  Satan’s greatest successes are those people who do not believe that he exists. Such people are greatly vulnerable spiritually to this malevolent being for they see no danger.
Jesus revealed his power to be greater than that of Satan. First, he resisted temptations by Satan.  Then he demonstrated his power over Satan by casting him and his demons out of the possessed. 
We are under Satan’s power, every time we give into temptations and sin; every time a vice dominates us; every time we give into selfishness and human weaknesses.
We need, therefore, to ask ourselves: ‘Do I seek the redeeming power of the Risen Jesus to rise above temptations, vices and my personal weaknesses?’
A renewing power
Jesus showed that he could raise the dead. Well known examples are the daughter of Jairus; the son of the widow in the town of Nain; and Lazarus. 
The renewal of the lives of these people was radically different from the Resurrection of Jesus. For one thing, they would die again, whereas Jesus will not.
Jesus’ power, then, is an inner renewing power. We need this when disappointed, discouraged or depressed. We experience it every time we turn towards God, and away from thoughts and behaviour which are contrary to Jesus’ teachings.
Again, in this liturgical celebration of the Risen Jesus as Redeemer, we need to ask ourselves ‘Do I seek his redeeming power to renew me in times when I feel like giving up?’
Jesus conquers sin ‘after the law’
Jesus also healed a crippled man to show he could forgive sins as a result of disobeying God’s laws as he taught them. We read him commanding in the Gospel of Mark [Mark 2:10-11].
But so that you may know that the Son of man has authority to forgive sins on earth – he said to the paralytic – I say to you: get up, pick up your mat, and go off home.
Jesus taught that ‘everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin’. 
So that we could experience all our sins being forgiven, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. After his Resurrection, he taught the Apostles 
If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.
In this Good Friday celebration, we need to ask ourselves: ‘Do I seek the redeeming power of the Risen Jesus through his forgiveness of my sins, especially through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation?’
Conversations with Christ
As we have reflected upon personal experiences of the Risen Jesus as Redeemer, the real question is ‘Do we believe in him as Redeemer?’
Let us pause for silent conversation with the Risen Jesus, asking him for the faith to seek his redemptive power every time that we need
- inner freedom
- new sight
- freedom from the influence of Satan
- personal renewal
- and forgiveness of our sins.
Every time that I have an experience of his redeeming power, I can say: ‘I know that my redeemer lives’ [Job 19:25]
Bishop Gerard Holohan
10 April 2020
 John 18:6, 10
 Matthew 20:28
 See Luke 18:35
 Romans 5:12
 Matthew 4:1-11
 Eg Mark 1:31, 34 etc
 Matthew 7:11
 Catechism of the Catholic Church 1520-1523
 Mark 2:1-12; 3:1-6; 8:31-37 etc
 eg Mark 10:46-52
 John 8:44
 Matthew 4:1-11
 eg Mark 1:24; 5:1-20
 Luke 7:14; 8:34; John 11:43
 John 8:34
 John 20:23