My Good Friday homily, given at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Knoxville during the ecumenical service.
Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”
For centuries, the Early Church Fathers struggled with the teaching that Jesus was both human and divine. Years of conflict and discussion took place all over the once mighty Roman Empire, which was declining just as the Church was increasing. Eventually, special ecumenical Councils were held to fully and theologically discuss this important issue, At the end of these amazing Councils, most Christians at last accepted that Jesus Christ was in fact fully human, as well as fully divine.
When I hear or read this last spoken word from Christ on the Cross, it reminds me of those important theological struggles of the past. For in this remarkable moment of Christ’s crucifixion, we have Jesus making one last human act as He releases and surrenders His Spirit to His Father in Heaven.
Christ’s body is dying; his organs are shutting down; his emotions are stretched beyond their limit, and His mind is about to close. With one last human effort, He speaks the words of obedience and deference to God. All that He has left is His holy, untarnished, precious, and sinless spirit, and so the completely human Jesus surrenders to God His totally divine spirit.
It’s the last lesson that Jesus gives to the people around Him, below the Cross. It’s the final lesson that is very important for all of our lives. What Jesus taught them, and what He is still teaching us today is simply this: He shows us how to die.
Each one of us will one day leave the surly bonds of Earth, so Jesus has given us the final act of obedience, humility, and servitude that we can all make in our hearts and minds, in our thoughts and souls. On the day of our final departure, when we have to leave behind all things that are temporary, transient, and all too human, there is one thing we can do – we can commit, commend, and surrender our spirits into the Hands of the One, Triune, and Living God.
May Christ be with us each day and bless us with His Holy presence. Amen.