I was watching a rebroadcast of an ESPN televised ballgame when the announcer came on after a commercial and said, “due to time constraints we move ahead with the game.” Well, due to time constraints I am posting a Good Friday homily I wrote in 2007.
C Cycle – Good Friday 07
Jn. 18: 1-19, 42
In the mid-90’s movie, “Smoke”, Augie Wren owns a cigar shop in Brooklyn at the corner of Third Street and Seventh Avenue. Every day of his much-the-same life, at 8:00 in the morning Augie walks across the street from his shop and takes a snapshot of his cigar store. A picture taken from the same spot across the street at precisely the same time every day. He calls this project, which includes thousands of photos, his “life’s work.”
One of Augie’s frequent customers is a man who comes in to purchase a specific brand of cigar and smokes it as he talks with a man named Paul. Paul unlike Augie is cultured, he is wealthy and is a writer by profession. Paul’s wife had recently died in a brutal, senseless act of random violence. That event has made Paul very cynical and life in general is not making much sense to Paul. Unfortunately, his grief and his anger over the event has created a writer’s block and Paul is unable to write. Since Paul’s life’s work is writing he is in his own pain because his two loves are gone – his wife and his life’s work.
One day Augie attempting to help Paul shows him the photo album of his “life’s work”. Paul flips through the pages of sameness, countless images of the same image, one after the other, page after page, endless pictures of the same cigar shop. His pace of flipping image after image intensifies as desires to grasp the meaning or reason why Augie has endless images of same shop. In his bewilderment he says to Augie – but they are all the same.
Augie tells him – you will never grasp the importance of why until you slow down.
So, Paul picks up the album and tries again this time goes through the album very slowly. As he does, he realizes there are subtle differences between the photographs. He begins to see details he has missed the first time. Sometimes people are wearing coats while other times they are in shorts. There was a truck making a delivery and the styles of the automobiles are changing. He notices a person riding a bike in one picture and a mother pushing her baby. Sometimes snow was swirling in the air and other times there was a hint of the soft glow of a golden sunrise or misty rain.
Why am I telling you this story and what does it have to do with Good Friday? Well, I believe the cross can become for us so ordinary that we forget what it means. We see it so much that it can become ordinary. We wear it around our necks, on our person; we see it in churches so much that we can easily forget what it really means for us. Prominent entertainers and athletes who do not even believe in Christ, wear huge crosses as a piece of jewelry.
We see and hear about the cross so much that like Paul flipping through the pages, we see but do not see anything beyond the obvious. We can live out our spiritual lives without engaging our minds because it has become routine. We fall into a routine of how we relate to the death of Christ and we fail to see how God is revealing something new to us each day, each week, each month, and each year.
We develop a routine in our spiritual lives and because of that we can miss an encounter with God that could change us. We miss the very reason why Jesus died, a horrific, painful, humiliating death. The cross is more than a symbol of our faith, it is an exclamation point reinforcing God’s love for us. It happened to change our relationship with God.
I believe God has always invited us to slow down and take a closer look. If we could slow down our lives and stop to interact with God as Paul did with Augie, then we would begin to understand. God is the Father waiting for us as did the prodigal’s father wait for his son’s return. Our problem is we have depended on our willingness to take one hour a week to define our relationship with God and we like certainty and predictability.
God knowing that sin destroys completely our ability to be in an intimate relationship with him, sent Jesus so that effect of sin would be destroyed. By Jesus taking our sins onto himself and into the grave with him cancelled the effects of sin. Jesus through that single act of obedience, made us righteous before God. It is now up to us to seek to know the difference between the picture we paint of our relationship with God and the one God desire to have with us. But know this – it is a relationship in which we are invited to live by constantly paying attention to the messages God gives us each day. This gift of the cross is taken for granted. God invites us each time we see it, to see the depth of God’s love for us. Like Augie we are reminded that the cross gave us our life’s work and it is in the details of the cross we will find how God desires us to live that