Celebration of the Lord’s Passion/Veneration of the Cross
SOMBER, NOT SAD
It is easy to fall into excesses this day. The thought that “God is dead” can wreak havoc on the faith of those whose faith in a living God, Good Friday or not, is already on tenuous grounds. But Good Friday’s focus is not a dead God, not a dead Christ, but a Christ who gives away everything freely, including his life by dying on the Cross, so that we might live!
Good Friday is not about him being dead and remaining very dead. Good Friday is about us getting back to life because He freely gave up His life that we might live. It is about Him being in control, being free and powerful enough even to subject himself to the black and dark forces of sin and misguided humanity, so that humanity might get back to the ways that lead to peace and authentic freedom.
Yes, Virginia … you ought not to be sad. The Liturgical celebration done in three parts, nowhere asks us to be sad, and to sulk in hopelessness and despair.
The First Reading, in fact, speaks of the servant of Yahweh, who “shall be raised high and greatly exalted.” He “shall startle many nations.” Take note that everything the servant suffers, was “for our offenses, for our sins.” This servant, Isaiah says, “gives his life as an offering for sin,” and one who will “win pardon for [our] offenses.”
He takes it up freely, and gives up his life freely … Herein lies his greatness.
Our response, fittingly, is not one of sorrow, too, but of confidence: “My trust is in you, O Lord; I say, ‘you are my God.’” The Second Reading from the letter to the Hebrews sums up this utter and total freedom of the Servant of Yahweh to take up the cross: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Good Friday has nothing to do with not taking a bath, with not being confident and happy, with being sour and dour and surly. It has to do with reverential silence and faith-induced awe that someone so great from above as He, could lay down his life, of his own free will, so that we might be raised up like him to glory!
In our times, there is no need and reason for us to fall into two extremes: to live like as if Holy Week is a time solely for sand, shore, sun, and sea, on the one had, like most disengaged Catholics do these days. But neither is it a time to grouse, grumble, and grunt for “God is dead.”
Let us learn a little lesson from real farmers. After doing their level best to prepare the ground, plow and harrow and water the soil and plant the seedlings, there is not much else to do but wait – wait actively, that is. There is not much one can do. One only needs to wait filled with hope, and with hopeful expectation. There is fallow time, when one does not get carried away by empty activism, but when one simply allows God to gently lead us in peace and serenity and trust, to some state of renewal, to become a better version of ourselves, and wait actively for the promise to become reality, for what was prophesied to unfold and irrupt in history, and for salvation to become real, for me, for here, for now – and thereafter!
Good Friday is a day to be somber and reflective, but by no means a day to be sad!
How about praying along with Jesus as he walks the way of the cross? … “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”