Scripture scholars John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg wrote a book entitled THE LAST WEEK about the events of Holy Week from an historical perspective. Crossan and Borg call this day of Jesus’ crucifixion “the most solemn day of the Christian year”. On the surface, calling the day Jesus died “Good Friday” might seem to be to be a contradiction in terms. In Spanish, today is called “Holy Friday”, while in German it is called “Sorrowful Friday”. But we Christians know that calling today “Good Friday” is not a contradiction, because even though the horror of Christ’s death occurred today, it is also the day that the redemption of the world was accomplished.
We can make a connection between the death of Jesus on Good Friday with his resurrection which we celebrate on Easter in the Lenten observances we have been practicing these past weeks. By praying the Way of the Cross on Fridays during Lent, we can make the connection between the sufferings that Christ endured and the sufferings and sacrifices that we endure in our own lives here on earth. One of the prayers that is prayed at the ninth station, when Jesus falls the third time, states: “Almighty and eternal God, you permitted your son to be weakened, crushed, and profaned so that he might rise from the dead freed from the ravages of sin. Help us to accept our weaknesses and failings as forerunners of our glorious resurrection in union with your son.” Hopefully, uniting our sufferings, our weaknesses, and our failings to journey of Christ will help us grow in our faith and help find meaning in our journey.
It is easy to say that we have faith and to praise the Lord when things are going well in our lives, isn’t it? But when we go through those dark moments, we probably want to cry in pain and agony in the words of the psalm that we heard on Palm Sunday: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” In the passion that we heard today in the Gospel, there were those who abandoned Jesus and who only thought of themselves. We saw Peter deny Jesus. We saw Judas betray him. We heard the crowd shouting to have Jesus crucified. Yet, we also saw the Blessed Mother, Mary of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala standing by the cross of Jesus out of love and loyalty. We saw Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea give Jesus’ body a proper burial.
We have accompanied Jesus during Holy Week and we now honor him on this day that he died. We venerate his cross out of our faith, out of our humility, out of knowing what the cross really means. I will never forget an image from my first Good Friday liturgy as a priest. That year, at St Richard parish in Jackson, we had all of our parishioners carrying rocks during Lent, to symbolize our sins and all that is keeping us from God. We had everyone come an place their roots at the foot of the cross as a part of our Good Friday liturgy. One young lady from our parish had been very ill for several years; she had not eaten anything by mouth all those years and had her nutrition brought into her body through tubes. She rarely came to mass due to her medical condition, yet she was intent on coming up and venerating the cross of Jesus. As she came up, one of the last to do so, dragging the box that contained her IV tubes and drips with her, there was not a dry eye in the entire congregation. I thought – what a testimony it is to see this young lady uniting her sufferings with Christ’s sufferings, to find meaning in her faith in the cross of Jesus and in the redemption that it brings to us. Today, as we connect our lives with Jesus’ passion and his death on the cross, we have hope in the resurrection that is come.