Image: Stained Glass, St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral, Yellowknife, NT
We gather today to commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus. Our Church is bare of decoration. We fast today and mourn the death of our Savior. Our liturgy is sparse and somber.
Today’s readings are about suffering. In Isaiah we find a reflection on the servant who is despised by others. We read that there are,
“no looks to attract our eyes; He was despised and rejected by people … a man to make people screen their faces; he was despised and we took no account of him.”
Jesus, once love by so many; by those he healed, by those he took time to listen to, by the children that he blessed. But now he has become an object of scorn. Betrayed by his own disciples, abandoned by almost everyone.
Today we remember the suffering and death of Jesus, and there are so many questions to ponder. Why did Jesus have to suffer? What does it mean to suffer? What do we do with suffering that we or a loved one experience? How does suffering change us?
In his letter to the Hebrews St. Paul tries to answer some of those questions. He emphasizes that Jesus took on our humanity, all of it, which included being subject to temptation and experiencing the pain of suffering, and that through his suffering he has something to teach us about living as a person in an imperfect world. Suffering is part of our lot as humans, and it includes not only the pain of injury and illness but also the pain that the Psalmist speaks of today, the pain of loneliness and heartache:
“those who see me in the street hurry past me; I am forgotten, as good as dead in their hearts, some thing discarded.”
Perhaps the loneliness that people feel in our society with its hurried pace and in a day when neighbors do not know each other anymore this is an even worse type of pain then physical suffering when we have people to support us.
St. Paul invites us to reflect on the suffering of Jesus, who cried out in pain to the Father to be relieved of his terrible burden, but then relented. He did so for us as way to show us to live in faith with our own suffering and loss. St. Paul says approach God with boldness and find the grace that you need to keep moving forward. Because Christ has experienced what we experience He will not abandon us, He will not leave us on our own.
Today we are also called to reflect on how we can share in the suffering of others. Do we harden our hearts to the pain of others, or can we seek God’s help and be empowered to recognize another’s pain and respond in ways that the other will know they are not alone? Jesus is always so constant in letting us know that we are never alone, can we be the presence of Christ as we spend some time visiting and consoling others who need God’s strength?
In today’s Gospel according to John, we read the passion of Jesus as he claims that “mine is not a kingdom of this world, if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews, my kingdom is not of this kind.” So many who knew Jesus were hoping that he would get the people to rise up against their oppressors. But Jesus’ message is not about resistance, it is not about overpowering an occupying force. It is about forgiveness, loving each other – even our enemies and learning from our suffering to become more present to each other and to our God.
Today is also a day to reflect on how we have been implicated in bringing suffering into the world. None of us are innocent for we all stand accused in the shadow of the cross.
Let us remember that Good Friday is not the end of the story. If it were we would not call it good. It is only the beginning of the mystery that we celebrate during this holy Triduum. Out of darkness, out of evil, out of chaos God brings something new and good that the world had never seen before. This Good Friday our sorrow and our suffering is tempered by hope in the resurrection.
But for now we wait in silence and contemplation