In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul tells us that Jesus did not consider being equal to God as something to be clung to, He emptied Himself, taking to Himself the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
God, in Jesus accepted the limitations of human life, including suffering and death, but in doing this, he had not ceased being God. God the creator chose to live as a creature; The Creator had come under the power of his creation. Thus the suffering servant, repulsive in appearance – despised and rejected, diminished, a person of suffering, struck down and afflicted – a person of no account, ridiculed, wounded, crushed, punished, bruised, oppressed, cut off from the land of the living, silently slaughtered and buried with the wicked – Jesus becomes the companion of all who suffer.
Because of this day we call Good Friday and all that happened on this day we know ours is the God of our Calvary’s – ours is the God of the emergency room, ours is the God of the AIDS hospice, the homeless shelter, our is the God of the food bank, ours is the God of the broken family and the abused child. Because of this Friday we call ‘good’ ours is the God of failed relationships, the God of fragile bodies and faltering steps and shattered hearts. Because of this Friday we call Good, God has been and always is in our darkest place, God is in even those places we are sure God is not.
Last year I had a number of young people from Temple Sinai visit St. Gabriel’s. They wanted to learn more about our Catholic faith. One of the students asked the question “why do you call it Good Friday?” All I could answer was, “It was rough on Jesus but good for us.” His was the punishment that made us whole and by His wounds we are healed.
Jesus spent three years teaching love and living love. This Friday we call ‘good’ is the final witness of God’s love for all creation. Greater love than this no one has than that one lay down one’s life for one’s friends – but what proves God’s love for us is that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
The crucified Christ is not a symbol of a failed life – the crucified Christ is the end term of a life of unlimited love.
At the last meal with His friends Jesus taught them, ‘as I have loved you, so you love one another.’ These simple words call us to relieve suffering in all its forms whether we meet that suffering in broken hearts or broken homes, among our own or among strangers.
As followers of the crucified we cannot be insensitive to the suffering of others. We can be concerned about the sufferings in such places as Darbur or Iraq but the strange thing is, we can be oblivious to the sufferings under our own roofs, in our own lives. Christ suffers in our own homes in those wounded by abusive language or psychological abuse. Christ is rejected today in those alienated by family feuds, those we exclude from our lives because of racism or sexism. Christ suffers today in those good people, who because of our indifference, our lack of sympathy and our insensitivity, are shut out of our lives. Because we are inundated every day of the week by scenes of human sufferings around the globe, Christ suffers today in our brothers and sisters, at home and abroad when we allow ourselves to be desensitized to their suffering. Christ, the first born of all creation, suffers today in the ruination of planet Earth, the pollution of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the very soil that sustains us. Christ suffers today in the diminishment of our very home, planet Earth.
On this Friday we call good, with the suffering of Christ before us, as we come to reverence His cross at the end of our service – as we touch the cross we can ask Jesus Crucified to give us the grace to see Him in the men, women and children we see to be suffering – and ask Him to give us the generosity to come to their aid and relieve their pain in any way we can and may the passion of Christ be always in our minds and hearts.