Today is Good Friday, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar. On this day, we remember the suffering and death of Jesus. In the Catholic tradition, Good Friday is the only day of the year that Mass is not celebrated. Instead, we gather for a solemn prayer service which includes Veneration of the Cross.
It is always a powerful experience for me as I watch others approach the cross. Some kiss it, or press their foreheads to the wood. Some touch it tenderly, while others kneel or bow reverently. I like to imagine that each of us is placing the pain and uncertainty of our lives at the foot of Jesus’ cross — a mother worried about her teenage daughter; a homeless man wondering where he will sleep tonight; an adult son who has just placed his father into a nursing home; a nurse, worried about the patient she cared for during her most recent shift; a businesswoman struggling to make a decision that will affect the lives of hundreds of her colleagues; a man whose marriage is crumbling; a child trying to navigate his parents’ recent divorce; a young pregnant woman, wondering how she will care for her child alone. On Good Friday, all of these struggles and all of this pain are nailed with Jesus to the cross.
Jesus’ friends who watched him suffer and die had no idea how the story would end. They knew only the pain of loss, the end of a dream, the finality of death. They could not yet see the joy of Easter morning, could not imagine the miracle of the empty tomb. We, however, have the benefit of 2000 years of hindsight. Still, the joy of Easter cannot erase the suffering of Good Friday; rather it calls us to see suffering as part of a larger story. How willing am I to enter into another person’s pain, not to “fix” anything but simply to be there? How willing am I to embrace the vulnerability inherent in allowing others to be present to my own pain?
Good Friday reminds us that pain and suffering — both our own and that of our world — are real and unavoidable. And still, Easter assures us that death does not win. We are, as Saint John Paul II said, “Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
By: Jennifer Gordon, SCL, System Director, Mission Services