This Homily Help is designed to offer preachers ideas on incorporating the discussion of racial justice into preaching for Good Friday homilies but many of the main points could be applied to other scripture readings throughout the year. Each reading has bulleted points for preachers to reflect upon as they read the scriptures in preparation for preaching and may incorporate into their homily if interested. The Homily Help also includes practical actions that preachers can suggest to their congregations to engage in addressing in their own lives, the Church community, and society at large. Additional resources are also provided if the preacher desires to learn more for their own personal development as well as information for their congregations.
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion – Year B - Lectionary: 40
Reflections on the Readings
1st Reading - Isaiah 52:13—53:12
· We are guilty for the indignities and violence against Christ even if we were not the ones who lived during the Crucifixion or swung the lash; we share culpability through our daily sins.
· Similarly, with regards to slavery, genocide of indigenous peoples, and racism it is important to acknowledge the ways we are responsible for ending the oppression and violence against Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) that impacts everyone in our own time.
Responsorial Psalm - 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
· The oppressed call out to God for justice and they believe that God will hear them and act justly toward them.
· Those who are persecuted should find refuge in the Church. Do they? Is the Church welcoming and an ally to the oppressed? How can we ensure that those who seek refuge are welcomed, validated, and supported?
2nd Reading - Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
· God understands the suffering of those persecuted because Christ has suffered.
· Christ suffered so that we should not have to suffer. Through his suffering on our behalf we are able to approach the “throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help”.
· God is with those who suffer racism. The faithful should all stand with those who suffer racism as well.
· The Church and her members must be dedicated to eliminating the suffering that results from racial injustice by personal conversion and working towards systemic change .
Gospel Reading - John 18:1—19:42
· Jesus is betrayed by those who claimed to be his disciples, his family, his “church”.
· How does the church fail those who experience racism? In what ways does the church and her members either hand BIPOC over to violence or run away from defending BIPOC?
· Where are the voices of BIPOC? Jesus spoke on his own behalf to the guards that came with Judas, to Pilate, to Herod. Are we open to listening to BIPOC or are we like Pilate and Herod, closed to anything BIPOC have to say?
· Peter draws a sword but Jesus tells him to put it away. Do we respond to racial injustice with paternalism, acting without input from those who are oppressed by racism, much like Peter responds? Or do we listen to marginalized voices and take guidance from them?
· Are we bystanders to injustice like those in the crowd and those gathered along the way to Golgatha? Or are we like the women and John, willing to enter into suffering with those harmed by racial justice? Are we willing to not only enter into suffering with others but actively working to dismantle racial injustice so that others may not have to bear suffering from racial injustice at all?
· Personal conversion is necessary to build a more just society. But personal conversion is not enough.
· The Roman Empire was structured to oppress the Jewish people. Pilate was responsible for enforcing that structure. Whether or not Pilate was a good person is irrelevant to that reality that the state had the power to execute Jesus and deprived him of protections Roman citizens (like Paul) had before the state. Remove Pilate from power and the state is still unjust. Place a “good person” in charge and the Jewish people are still oppressed. Addressing racism requires addressing systemic racism by restructuring society so that there is true equity, inclusion, and inculturation.
Prayer -Without prayer and the sacraments our work for justice is much more difficult. We must bring about greater conversion in our own hearts in order to bring about conversion of unjust systems. Prayer and the sacraments gives us the grace to overcome evil; they humble us and strengthen our fortitude in the face of obstacles. Perhaps pray the Stations of the Cross for Overcoming Racism
Listen - Listen to the voices of Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander Catholics. One great place to start is the presentation made by Servant of God Thea Bowman to the US Bishops in 1989
Learn - Read the US Bishops Letters on Racism - "Brothers and Sisters to Us" and "Open Wide Our Hearts" -en Español
Act - Advocate for laws and policies that promote equity and inclusion of all people in the Church and society.
o Follow The Iowa Catholic Conference for Updates on State legislation
o Issues in society might include working for expanded Voting Rights and access to the ballot box, Economic, Employment and Housing opportunities, and Criminal Justice Reform.
o Consider ways in which the parish life or Catholic institutions you are involved can make racial justice a priority.
o As a parish review the Cultural Competency Modules by the USCCB
Repeat - Becoming Anti-Racist people and institutions requires vigilance and continual renewal.
In preparation for preaching on racism for Good Friday it may be helpful to review some of the following resources:
Review some or all of the “Backgrounders” on racism from the USCCB:
o What Is Systemic Racism? - en Español
o Racial Economic Inequality - en Español
o Racism and Education -en Español
o Racism and Employment - en Español
o Racism and Housing - en Español
o Racism and Migration in the United States - en Español
o Racism and the Criminal Justice System -en Español
o Racism and the Native American Experience - en Español
o Racism and Voting -en Español
USCCB Pastoral Letters on Racism
o Open Wide Our Hearts: An Enduring Call to Love; USCCB, 2018.
o Brothers and Sisters to Us, USCCB, 1979.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Speeches/Writings
o Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail”
o Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “The Other America”