crucified-horiz GOOD FRIDAY  ~  2020

Last night was Holy Thursday, The Feast of the Lord’s Supper. For thousands of years Christians have gathered for the washing of the feet and the indescribable gift of Jesus truly Present in His Body and Blood, The Eucharist. Afterwards the church, the sanctuary would be stripped of all decoration. Candles, linens, sacred vessels. Holy water hidden. Only in the Altar of Repose lies the consecrated Hosts. These holy, sacred steps remind us, help us see, the emptiness the disciples must have felt as Jesus was crucified and placed in the tomb. All was ….so empty. And this year, as rarely before, even the faithful have been removed from the church. Isolated, scattered, unsure what to expect in the days, weeks ahead. Where is Jesus?

Today, Good Friday, the tradition is to gather for the one day of the liturgical year in which Mass will not, cannot be celebrated. Instead would normally be a gathering of simple holy love. It would begin with the priest, the deacon prostrating themselves before the altar, renewing their own consecration, their love for God as was expressed at their ordinations. The opportunity shared with the hearts of the faithful as well.   Following would be readings from the Liturgy of the Word, focusing upon the long and powerful Gospel account of the Passion of our Lord. Then would come the intense general Solemn Prayer Intentions shared in every Catholic Church around the world. Next each would have opportunity to come, venerate the holy Cross. Our Good Friday gathering would then conclude with a simple sharing of Holy Communion with the consecrated, sacred Hosts from the night before. But this Holy Week, 2020, around the world this will rarely occur. Even in St. Peter’s, at the Vatican this solemn day will be celebrated without the many faithful. While our gatherings this holy season are not as we would choose we are blessed to worship, in our isolation, TOGETHER, in Spirit and Truth. And listening to the Gospel we hear, as always, God will speak to our hearts, as we seek His Real Presence in His Word. The timeless Word of God reveals God will show us the way.

We all would do well to gently read all the readings for this Good Friday. [First Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 31; Second reading: Hebrews 4: 14-16, 5:7-9; Gospel: John 18: 1- 19:42]. For our reflection today we will focus on just a few gems from the Gospel.

The Passion account shared in John’s Gospel begins with a simple but important lesson. “Jesus went out with His disciples…to where there was a garden…Jesus had often met there with His disciples.” In these opening words we are given a lesson and invitation, this season of social isolation, to join Jesus in the garden of His passion. Whether it be a backyard, a park or even a virtual garden visited in a book or online we can, in spirit meet with our Lord. We join Him, yes with, our fears, needs, even our disappointments and anger. A few lines later in the Gospel we are reminded “Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to Him went out”. So our Lord gathered His followers, those who were unsure yet seeking Him. He even went to those coming to arrest and betray Him. As Christ knew all that would happen to Him, He also knows ALL of our lives, from our creation in our mother’s womb to when we cross the threshold of eternity. God is never surprised. So as we would join Him in the garden this Good Friday we come realizing a profound peace …God Knows and welcomes us. But as we gather with our troubled lives let us remember to also come FOR Him. May we not be among those who abandon Him this day of sorrow and pain. May we bring Him the broken vessels of our souls and share the holy fragrance of our love and faith as Mary Magdalene did.

Sitting quietly with Jesus may we reflect and share from the events of His passion. We remember His words before Pilate: “My Kingdom does not belong to this world.” It is for our benefit that we learn in this difficult time, that the Kingdom of God is not dependent on places, rituals, or our understanding. Indeed there are eternally real and vital Places, Practices, Rituals of our faith and worship. But each and everyone is but a threshold, a window through which God calls us to follow and grow in our relationship with Him with the Kingdom of God. In the Passion account we see Pilate struggle with this reality. It is especially as Jesus says to Pilate: “ Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”. Pilate’s response well proclaims the response of humanity through the millennia: “What is truth?”

The Gospel continues to the tragic conclusion as Jesus is crucified and dies. It is at this horrid moment the disciples wonder as never before. Where is God? Has God failed? Is God dead? Where Is God…? So it is for many this painful time in the year of our Lord 2020. Sickness covers the world. Fear, death, exhaustion and failed resources all fuel the sense of dark fear. And even for those not directly encountering the virus the social isolation, economic peril, the inability to gather as we normally would for work, worship, for life is deeply difficult.

But let us return to the garden, with Jesus. Let us allow Him to remind us of the rest of this story. John’s Gospel describes the piercing of the side of Jesus with the spear. The flow of water and blood coming from Christ is painful to see. And we are reminded it is all part of God’s plan. Forensic medical experts have said that the flow of water and blood is indicative of a ruptured heart. They are describing the broken heart of God, of Jesus. For it was in a love so intense, so real that Jesus came… To live, suffer, die, that we could be saved from our sins, our own brokenness. As we sit with Jesus in the garden touch the wound in His side. Take His hands pierced for you. Look into the eye of God who never stops looking for, seeking you. And may we each also allow the Holy Spirit to take our own wounds, failures and share them in the wounds of God. It is as we each share, this Good Friday 2020, that together we can grow, as never before into the very heart of Jesus broken in love for us. It is as we allow this to be we will share with the Gospel the closing words of our reading about this holy account: “An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may believe.” As we each follow Jesus we will come to experience Him who is the Truth and we will come to be free, in our hearts, to live the truth of who God has created and called us each to be. 

Holy Friday 2020, is unlike any other. Yet a time, much like that first Good Friday, of fear, profound uncertainty and opportunity to come and grow with God as never before.