Good Friday - 3pm Service- 10 April 2009
( John 18:1 - 19:42 )

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore

'Crucifixation and Last Judgement' by Jan Van Eyck

Today Good Friday is not a day of obligation . Yet, our Church and all Churches around the world are fully packed and overflowing . Every year it is the same . Why is it ?

One reason why this is happening is because suffering is something all of us can relate to . Suffering is something we all experience and for many of us continue to experience .Suffering is real in our lives and all of us in some way want to make sense of the meaning of our suffering and how it is connected with the suffering of Jesus .

However, part of our human suffering and pain are experiences that we cannot fully comprehend. What we experience personally, what we see is happening in the world are sufferings that are very difficult to understand and comprehend. We have many questions about sufferings.

Very often, the pain we experience is beyond us, beyond what the human person to cope . We find ourselves powerless and sometimes feel as though we are in a big hole, dark and without any way of getting out .

It is even more difficult to understand suffering when innocent children are suffering and dying . It is also very difficult to understand suffering when good people experience tragedy . We will ask ourselves when we face such sufferings, especially when there are no real answers, “What have I done wrong to deserve such pain?”

Yesterday, a priest told me that the divorce rate in Singapore is 57% (unconfirmed). And In the Catholic Church, it is about 50%. What is happening? The suffering that we are facing is immense. Where is God in all of these suffering? Where is God when I am suffering? These are the questions many of us ask.

If we think that we are the only one suffering, what about the millions in the world who are suffering? What about the migrant workers who serve us; the migrant workers who physically work 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week? Who supports his sick mother, who provides food and shelter for his siblings, who works for years and often finds that there is little savings because somebody has died or somebody at home gets sick . Such sufferings for these people are daily and without any hope of change for the coming years of their lives .

Why is the world and life so cruel and merciless? Hundreds of thousands are dying in Sudan. Millions are dying of disease and starvation and destitution in Africa, India and many parts of the world. Millions are also being exploited, tortured, persecuted and killed daily in the world.

Suffering is a reality that is beyond our own pain and we as followers of Christ must be very aware of and empathise with others who are also suffering . Everyone is precious in God’s eyes . One of the main reasons why there is so much suffering in the world is because we no longer value the human person .The human person is now simply considered as a stem cell in laboratories . A migrant worker is only considered a commodity to labour for us . The aged, the sick, the dying are also not given much respect . They are considered dependents and burdens of society . Where is the dignity of the human person?

Mother Teresa says, “The bigger disease in this world today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, and I would like to add, not also cancer or HIV aids, but rather the feeling of being unwanted and uncared for, and deserted by everybody . The greatest evil in this world today is the lack of love and charity . The terrible indifference to one’s neighbour .”

Evil is present in every country in the world .Human beings are no longer treated as valued and precious creation of God; no longer treated and valued as precious sons and daughters of God .

So what is precious? Diamonds are precious! Ferraris! Lamborghinis are precious . Have you tried scratching a Lamborghini? The world has become impersonal! So what is happening? It is easier for people to divorce each other, to kill under human beings in the name of scientific research, abortion, euthanasia .

Over the last fifty years, the world of technology has moved from the typewriter to building computers that are capable of computing one trillion functions in one second! Technologies have advanced so immensely and are beyond our imagination . But has in all of these technological advancement contributed to the eradication of poverty and the improvement of the quality of life for the sick and the poor in the world? No! The world is filled with even more people who are poor . What is happening?

We are followers and believers of Jesus Christ and we cannot allow such evil to continue and be complacent about it . What can we do? The problems are enormous and global we say . While this is true, each of us, you and I, must begin somewhere . We must do our small part, even the smallest act of kindness .

To begin with we need to treat our maids, our migrant workers, our aged and the sick in our family and in society with greater respect and kindness . If our parish of 4,300 people can show a greater respect for the human person, especially for the poor and helpless, and defend their rights, there will be less suffering in our country and in the world . If the world is to experience a dramatic change of heart, we must first do our part .

I am no scientist but I read somewhere that when a leaf, a single leaf somewhere in the Amazon flutters to the ground, it is scientifically possible to measure the effect of this falling leaf at the opposite end of the world . The whole world is closely connected . All living things, the entire ecology, the cosmos are inter-connected . More so as human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God and whom Jesus consider worthwhile to die on the Cross!

We need to be more personal and at the same time to be more global in our outlook in life .Personal, in the sense that every person is God’s precious child . Every human being is God’s precious son and daughter . Global, in a sense that we must have the bigger world view of life and cannot simply live for our own selfish gains and needs .

And so to conclude and sum up, let me say that suffering is real, complex and beyond our comprehension . We all know what it is like through our experiences, but at the same time we know it’s beyond us . It is both a misery and a mystery . We have no clear answers, yet at the same time, each of us, you and me, have a definite challenge to make a difference in today’s world . Every human person whether it is your spouse, your children or your neighbour, more so for those who are poor, is a precious child of God .

We must develop a world view of life that is bigger than our individualistic needs . We must realise that every thought, word and deed of ours do have a serious consequences and effects on others because we are all inter-dependant .

And so as a parishioner, if we are resolved to respect others and to treat them as precious in God’s eyes, the sufferings in our homes, in this country and the world will be so much less .

Later when we queue up to kiss the cross of Christ, let us keep all of these in mind . Let us keep a solemn respect for Jesus who died for us; Jesus who helped us so much because He tried to make sense of the meaning of suffering for us . He tried to redeem us, but in doing so He had to put himself at the center of the mystery and misery of suffering .

As you line up to kiss the Cross of Christ, speak to the Lord from your heart . Open your heart to the Lord . Ask Him, “Lord how can I love you more? How can I respect and value every human person in my life more fully because I know and believe You loved me so much and You want me to do the same to others whom You love .”


Fr Philip Heng, S.J.


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