Good Friday is the day when Christians observe the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – His death on the cross at Calvary. I was explaining the events of Good Friday to my 4-year-old grandson; his reply was quite literal, “What is good about that?” Jesus died so that we would live; this promise of eternal life gives us hope, and a purpose to strive for holiness. We rarely achieve perfection in our lives, but this one act of love and sacrifice from God gives us reason to try!
Father Benny Alikandayil Chacko and Deacon Earl Ruppel from St. Francis Xavier Parish in Vincennes facilitated a day “retreat” in Bloomington, Ind., at the Mother of the Redeemer Farm on March 27. More than 90 people from Vincennes, Washington, Ind., and Lawrenceville, Ill., attended the day of prayer and sacrament.
The Lenten themes of the day were repentance and forgiveness. It was a beautiful reminder that we should strive for the state of saintliness in our own lives. Father Benny, with a joyful smile, reminded us that “God is just and merciful. He yearns for us and calls us to be holy people. If we live only for this life, we are to be pitied.” Father Benny challenged us with questions such as, “Why has society lost its sense of sin?” and “why do people call you a Christian?” He recalled his childhood, when Saturday afternoons at the church meant long lines of people waiting to receive the sacrament of Penance. Today, this is a rare event; yet the lines for Holy Communion are lengthy. “Where have all the sinners gone?”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides clear definition: “Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God's forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Only God forgives sin. In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ's solemn words to Simon Peter: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matt 18:18). The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head(CCC 1441-1444).
Throughout salvation history God tells us that there is nothing we could do that would make Him love us less. As Christ was dying on the cross He said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." Today we have the knowledge of the gift of the Church and sacraments. We live in realities because of pride, and often our actions cause pain to others. The sacrament of healing rebuilds relationships because without repentance there is no forgiveness.
Father Benny and Deacon Earl are a great example of those striving to have eternal friendships with God. You can see in their faces a joy that comes from their willingness to seek perfection in holiness. When one member of the Church is happy, the whole Church can be happy! Spread the good news, especially on Good Friday, and enjoy perfection in the promises of Easter! Amen!