Good Friday – April 10, 2020
A few days ago, Father Ron Rolheiser, a contemporary spirituality writer in the Church, reflected on this moment in our lives – a moment that has led to the celebration of the Lord’s Passion today that is unlike any Good Friday in our history.
Father Rolheiser offered these thoughts about our current condition. “There are many, many negatives to the current coronavirus that’s wreaking a deadly havoc across the planet. But there’s one positive: Against every form of resistance we can muster, this virus is dispelling the illusion that we are in control of our lives and that, by our own efforts, we can make ourselves invulnerable. … This unforeseen and unwelcome virus is teaching us that, no matter our sophistication, intelligence, wealth, health, or status, we’re all vulnerable, we’re all at the mercy of a thousand contingencies over which we have little control. No amount of denial will change that.”
While Saint John’s version of the Passion that was just proclaimed portrays an image of Jesus who is very much in control of his march to death, the other gospel narratives are far more willing to give us a glimpse into Jesus’ human struggles with his place in God’s saving plan. … Matthew tells us that in the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prayed, he “began to feel sorrow and distress.” … Mark reminds us that Jesus went so far as to beg his Father in heaven to “take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” … And Luke joins Matthew and Mark in conveying these final words of Jesus from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Regardless of how Jesus is portrayed in the gospels as he embraces his crucifixion, it is clear that he reaches that moment in his life only because he was able to dispel the desire to be in control and to hand over his life to the will and wisdom of his Father in heaven.
In his moment of surrender, Jesus provides us with a glimpse of what it means to trust in a power bigger than ourselves. For as much as we have all come to believe that we are capable of anything – that we are “secure, in control, independent, invulnerable, and self-sufficient,” as Father Rolheiser notes further, we are not. Jesus came to that realization in his journey to Calvary when he spoke these words, “Not what I will, Father, but what you will.” … So must we.
Indeed, it was Jesus’ acknowledgment before God of his own vulnerability and subsequent trust in a will outside of his own that opened the way for God’s plan for our life and salvation to unfold. In that plan, through the mystery of God, the cross – of all things – becomes the vehicle through which the depth of God’s love for creation is manifested for all.
You and I know well that authentic love always includes a readiness to suffer with and for the one we love. In Jesus’ willingness to trust beyond his own desires, God – in Jesus – loved us to the point of suffering and death. God could have chosen to relate to his creation in any way that he wanted. Yet he chose to relate to it – to us – through Jesus. And he chose to have Jesus carry a cross so that we, in our suffering, pain and grief might discover a God who understands us because he walked with us in all of life, including its most painful experiences.
In the gift of God’s saving grace extended to us from the cross, we’re given the assurance that we do not suffer alone. God suffers with us and is woven into every aspect of our lives as we make our own painful journeys to Calvary this day.
While every one of us would like the crosses associated with this virus to be lifted from our shoulders, the likelihood of that happening soon doesn’t seem very realistic. Yet, in the midst of this moment in our lives, we are not without hope! Good Friday is not the end of Jesus’ life. Nor is it the end of God’s plan for us. Good Friday always gives way to Easter Sunday!
Brothers and sisters, God’s peace, consolation and saving grace will surely come – if we are willing to set aside our own pride and begin to assume the mind and heart of Jesus that led him to the cross – if we are humble enough to admit that in the face of overwhelming pain, we’re not in control – and if we are wise enough to acknowledge our need for God, more than anything or anyone else, at this moment in our lives.
May we make as our own, the final words of Jesus spoken from the cross, in and through which we will find our peace, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”