What’s ‘good’ about Good Friday?
It does not seem that Jesus’life on earth should end with the violence and horror of Good Friday, with betrayal and denial and pain and extreme suffering in the midst of crazy politics, religious and secular, and at the hands of evil folks. Jesus was the ultimate good- loving, inclusive, and full of surprises and courage and wisdom. He took on the religious of his day as well as the powerful and he sided with the powerless and outcast, showing us what we ought to be and to do for justice and peace and for our fellow human beings. How and why on earth could such a God-Man come to such an end.? Well, we know the story doesn’t end with the horrific death but with resurrection. But to go through Good Friday to get there seems outrageous and awful for those he loved and those who loved him. Feel his pain. See his mother and Mary of Magdala lingering at the cross and at the grave. Feel the grief. Feel the fear of the disciples, some hiding in the crowd. How could it have been that way? And yet why not? We too feel pain and suffering, fear and tragic loss and, yes, grief. This is the lot of the human race and Jesus became a full fledged member to show us the way to live as God wants us to live, and to ultimately save us from ourselves. And yet also feel the victory of the Cross. He completed his Mission, he stayed with it until the horrific end and he did what he came to do. The words from the Cross” Eli, Eli lama sabachtani” have been translated as “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Indeed we can identify with that feeling of desolation. But Aramaic scholar Rocco Errico says that the translation is more: “Oh Sustainer, oh Sustainer, I have finished it”. It is a victory cry. Feel that too, feel it deeply. Live it so at the end that comes for all of us you can claim it-“I have done what You called me to do”. Jesus also taught us that when we stand up to the powers that be for justice and right, we can be killed. To wit, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Msgr. Oscar Romero, Jean Donovan, Maura Clark and a host of others. And in their wake the world changes,the sins of hatred are replaced by the seeds of love, but oh the loss and tragedy. The tragedy and the victory of a life cut short but lived according to God’s wishes- oh that we too will live for love and justice and peace, until the end.
All of us live Good Fridays in our lives. We experience violence and loss, hope dying and people dying and suffering, people who enter our lives for a short while and leave us missing them forever. Some communities and individuals live with fear and terror and horror daily. Some live in war zones ranging from the Middle East to the streets of inner city Chicago or New York, Boston or Fort Myers. Mothers of slain children have united here in Fort Myers to find a way for peace in the land of gang wars and community fear and compliance. They know what Mary knew. And there are those who live with the violence of diseases like cancer and a host of others. We, Pastor Judy Beaumont and I, are now are living with the scepter of cancer as Pastor Judy B. fights the possibility of AML with various treatments and offers up her suffering as Christ did. We see many others living with this struggle as we attend Cancer Centers in Fort Myers, Tampa (Moffitt) and Sarasota. We somehow know one another and we know the struggle. Some still are strong and some are weak. All are facing a similar enemy. And sometimes it is almost a friend as it opens other doors to loving and being and serving. This is a Good Friday experience. I asked her today how we get to Easter Sunday from Good Friday? She said that they were inseparably connected. And they are for all of us, who experience suffering and pain and uncertainty and life and resurrection together. It was from the debilitating results of my rare stomach cancer(now four years ago) that a young man grew his life. I could not take care of my aviary and some other chores and I asked a young man whose mother attended our church to help me. A good looking youth in his early twenties, his young life had been led mostly in his room as a host of life events added up to that isolation and misery for him. I had reached out to him before but would have never thought of asking him to help with the chores if I had not been knocked down pretty low. And clearly it was a God-thing for he had the courage to say ‘yes’. In coming to help me with the chores four times a week we got to form a mutual understanding and bond and to talk. Over the four years his life has turned around- he lives! Out of near death, his and mine, came life. Good Friday and Easter, connected. Pastor Judy is right and we learned much from our congregation of those who had experienced the violence of racism and classism and homelessness , the streets, addictions, mental illness, physical illnesses, multi layers of injustice and poverty and difference and being on the outside. They knew Good Friday well, and they know resurrection well. Through this same Christ and the hands and hearts of those who love Him, they are now housed, redeemed by God and whole. They still suffer with much but they know well that Good Friday often precedes and sometimes coexists with resurrection. And so we live! Because He lives we live, now and forever. Death is not to be feared,we will live on with our loving God, but life here and now is precious and we hold on and keep on loving and serving until it is time to lay the battle and the precious joy of life down. We live!
Below is a picture from our last Good Friday as a congregation, before we entered our semi-retirement as priests due to dealing with illness. This Holy Week we miss our church and our roles as priests terribly, but we still enact our calling in our lives.This very day we spoke with the young man who was our Christ in the picture below about his struggles with serious health issues and living on his own for the first time- a time of joy and also great difficulty. He asked my prayers and also got my best effort at pastoral counseling. He too lives after near death four years ago-he lives and is learning to embrace life!
This(above) is Quayschaun and some of the Good Friday faithful ready to walk through the streets of Fort Myers enacting the Stations of the Cross. On our cross are the petitions of the community. The names of loved ones filled the petitions with special prayers for those still living outside and those who died of violence in our community like 5 year old Andrew Faust and our own Mr. Harry Gary’s nephews. (Below Mr. Gary and Pastor Judy Lee).
The Catholic Alliance For Common Good also has a beautiful meditation for this day-this is a letter I received:
What is ‘good ‘ about Good Friday?
“In an increasingly diverse Christian community, there is much ambivalence toward Good Friday. Many argue correctly that Easter—not Good Friday—is the centerpiece of the Christian story.
Augustine puts it best: “We are Easter people, and ‘alleluia’ is our song!”
Clearly what happened on that hill outside Jerusalem was nothing short of horrible. Jesus, falsely accused of heresy, was put to death in the most brutal of ways: crucifixion, the greatest tool of Caesar’s state-sponsored terrorism.
But the reality of Good Friday isn’t limited to the historical event in first-century Palestine. The cross has cosmic implications for people of all generations.
In Jesus, God comes down into the fullness of human dysfunction: its bigotry, terrorism, disloyalty, brokenness and sin. In Jesus Christ, God wears the body of anyone who is lost and broken.
As I argue in my TIME essay, this is what’s so good about this day: God is willing to get caught in the chaos of our world, to take on our brokenness and to transform it. By loving us through the life and death of Jesus, God reimagined the world and the possibilities for it.
Have us a blessed Good Friday. Let us keep each other in prayer during these sacred days.” Christopher Hale CACG
Amen-and now to experience the grave with the hope of resurrection still in our hearts.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community