In this entry I retell with a few touches of my own, a challenging and beautiful Good Friday Retreat lecture given by our dear Fr. Vega. I beg forgiveness if my retelling does not do him justice. I for one, just wanted to keep the ideas safe somewhere so I could someday share them with my kids.
For all the students out there: It is not once a year, and it did not just happen 2,000 years ago.
Let us begin by exploring the death of a philosopher. A mother and her four year child enter the supermarket. As they begin to walk the aisles she hears an urgent plea, “Mommy, mommy, look! Look!”. “No, not now” she replies as she tries to remember what is needed. Not five minutes have passed when in a very different area she again hears the little voice cry out: “Oh, wow! Mommy, look! Let me tell you! Please!” Time is ticking and she assumes she knows whatever it is he is marvelling at is another candy, another gimmick, so she flatly repeats “No, not now!” She is thinking to what she will cook that night, reviewing what she has cooked that week. She is rushing so that she is not late to pick up her other kids at school avoiding the heavy traffic leaving school. As she enters the milk and ice cream aisle, she again hears “This is awesome, Mommy, you got to see this! Mommy! Mommy! Look!” She is lost in thought trying to quickly plan her week so she wont have to return to the supermarket for a couple of days. At his insistent demands she finally says: “Quiet! Be quiet!” She finally reaches the cashier only to again hear “ooooh Mommy! Mommy let me tell you something.” is “Shhh be quiet!” she sharply replies with a hinted threat. “But why?” Finally loosing her grip on the situation she smacks him and states “because I said so!”
We have lost the capacity to wonder, to marvel and we shush it and kill it in the next generation whenever we silence the questions and rebuke the opportunities to dialogue and share the simple joys and wonders of a child. When we loose the ability to be amazed, surprised or wonder we are for all practical purposes dead. We may be biologically functioning but we have severed the conection to the awesome wonder of creation.
We are stuck mired in death and perhaps have locked ourselves into aour own hell. Mired in despair but rejecting the Joy that Easter is all about. So I go back tot he initial question, when is Good Friday? Probably for many of us, it was some day in our past, maybe it was yesterday, or this morning or maybe it is to come tomorrow. We have our own Good Fridays that are not unconnected to what happened to Jesus on the his way to Calgary. When we taste the humiliation, when we are unfair victims of wrongful judgement, when we experience loneliness and face death we share His cross.
A victim of jealousy, mocked for our morals and unable to find the words to defend ourselves we have are experience our Good Friday. Darkness has its hour when we are alone in our travails, alone faicing illness, disfigurement, death, caring for a loved one without hope of recovering, we are facing or own Calgary. When we are tied down in our freedom, when innocence and duty are seen as weakness and what we would want for ourselves we have to give to others, we are feeling Good Friday. When we face the inadequateness of self expressino, simphonies of silence, pain of knowning that mosto f what is best of us, what we know and can give will die with us we are feeling Good Friday. When we are made to feel shame for what we believe in, be comforted, we are not alone, we are feeling what Jesus felt on Good Friday. When you feel your youth leave, when we taste frailty and feer abandonment, our inevitable aging, our lack of fulfillment is our burden in our stations of the cross. We know this dark hour, we know Good Friday when all seems to fall apart and all we can do is wait. Wait for the darkness and death to have their hour. Embrace your darkness, but then GO BEYOND meet the darkness of the world. Become one, solidary with the darkness that colors the cries of mothers who have lost their children to senseless violence.
As we meet Good Friday we should strain to also hear the voices of this Day.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
Gospel of Luke 23:34
When you are able to transcend the humiliation of being wrongfully or senselessly victimized, overcome the loneliness and the frustration and still say “I forgive” you are at Calgary with Jesus.
Lay your burdens at Jesus’s feet on Calgary and hear him say,
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Gospel of Luke 23:43
These words are meant to comfort you, an invitation to go on. Where and how do we experience Paradise? Look at Mary, in her frailty and strength, the terrible sadness of witnessing the death of her Son. The pain of the Son that has recognizes he is the cause of pain to his Mother.
“Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, this is your son”.
Then he said to the disciple: “This is your mother.”
Gospel of John 19:26-27
We are urged to take care of one another.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
Jesus shares our humanity, he is Son of Man and as such faces death and despair, like we do when we experience Good Friday. In our Creed there is a single line that has created what a lot of recent reflection “And he descended into Hell”, it used to be explained as a statement that Jesus went to Limbo to save all the souls that had been waiting there since Adam. Now the Church in its Theology of the Descent to Hell, understands that Jesus in his humanity experienced Hell, like we do when we lock ourselves away, loose hope and turn away into a cycle of despair. Jesus was there too. We think God’s love will not reach us that we are beyond being saved, but there is NO Place where God’s infinite love does not reach. It is the unconditional love that saves, not our actions or our doing.
Gospel of John 19:28
In a reaffirming statement of his human life, Jesus recognzies his needs. He places his demand at our feet. Death is inevitable but it is a call to share your needs and serve one another, even when living the darkest hours.
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished”;
and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit.
Gospel of John 19:30
Upon being served by another, Jesus accepts the end of his physical life.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”:
Gospel of Luke 23:46
Jesus sends forth his Spirit which will live on after death. In Jesus’ death the voice of the Innocent lives on. Resurrection is in the voices that live on. Jesus’ death was on a lonely hillside. Disciples had left. A death in humiliation and powerlessness becomes showered in powe rand dignity that echoes in time. Upon His Resurrection his disciples’ declaration of faith, their creed can be summed in one line: Jesus is Lord. The Task we are given each Easter is to rekindle the creed with us. To strain to listen to the voices of Good Friday in our lives.
The information age has trapped us in cubicles, then given us electronic interfaces and firewalls to the point that we all endure Calgary alone. We are unable to serve each other or witness the thirst in each other. The Joy of Easter is reduced to bits and bytes, a shallow animated image with words that have become shallow and trite MIME. If you have lost your sense of wonder and are among the many walking dead, this Easter acknowledge your Stations of the Cross, embrace your Good Friday and when you meet Jesus in Calgary find your way back to the joy and wonder of Easter by celebrating together in a community tending to the needs of each other and declaring with joy that Jesus is Lord.