Good Friday, a dismal day, a day for reflection and often for sadness at the terrible price that Christ paid for us. It is a day to find some time alone and to put aside the easy pleasures of the flesh. A day to fast, abstain from meat and to use these things to help us focus on what has happened.
When we hear the gospel account, we may even feel that we are right there as it is happening and feel the same shame for turning away from Jesus, in our own selfish ways, just as his disciples ran away from him when he needed them most. When we read the gospel account we can ask ourselves, “Have I ever betrayed a friend? Have I laughed at one of my friends at school behind their back just to join in with the others?
Have I jumped on the gossip wagon at work and thrown in a juicy story that was handed to me in confidence just so that I could be part of the action? Have I coldly refused to help someone who needed me because I judged that they did not live up to my expectations?
My friends, Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah, the one who would lead the Jews to freedom, but he was arrested like a common thief. Have any of you ever been present when the police have arrived and arrested someone? Put the handcuffs on and marched them away struggling? Believe me, it is not like watching it on television. There is a terrifying reality to it, a feeling of helplessness in the face of the power of the authorities that can leave you feeling disoriented and afraid, even when you know they are not there for you.
When the mob took Jesus, he certainly did not live up to the disciples’ expectations at that moment. He was a failure as the kind of Messiah they expected, he was supposed to be the one in charge, and so suddenly in their shock and fear they decided he was not worth risking life and limb for, and they ran away. But still, even as we remember the shame of the disciples, even as we remember our shame, we gather and pray together on this Good Friday.
When we look at the gospel account, we may see in the words the image of Christ’s suffering from the cruel scourging, the piercing thorns, and the terrible nails. Then we may remember each sin of ours that made the lashing sting, made his blood flow, and made the suffering of his sacrifice for us increase.
When we come forward shortly to reverence the cross of Christ with a kiss or a touch, to reverence that cross which was the source of so much of his pain, we will surely feel the sorrow and the bitter tears of our own failures. Then we will come face to face with our responsibility for all that happened to the one who sacrificed his life for us.
At the Last Supper Jesus reminds his disciples that they call him Lord and Teacher and he tells them that it is right that they should because that is what he is!
Today the reminder of Jesus’ crucifixion makes us suffer sadness and shame and he would tell us today that we are right to feel these things because that is where our remorse must begin. Because just as at the Last Supper, where Jesus went on to say, don’t just call me Lord and Teacher,
learn from me and do as I do, sacrifice for others. Today Jesus tells us don’t just feel sorry for the sins we have committed but do as he does. Commit some good instead, lift our heads up from the sadness and accept the sacrifices we must make for the good of others, gladly, just as Christ has sacrificed himself for us.
Even while Jesus was dying he took the time to make sure that Mary, his mother, and John, his beloved disciple, would take care of each other.
This is the Jesus who looks out for others even in his own dire need. This is the Jesus who is our Lord and Teacher and says, “Do as I do!” This is the Jesus who says reach out to others, put others first so that your own sorrow and shame fades away in the joy of serving God’s people.
And, how can we find the strength to do this? At the Last Supper Jesus gave us his body and blood to strengthen us, and even though today is the only day of the year on which we do not celebrate the Mass, we still have the most wonderful gift of Jesus, the chance to receive him in Holy Communion. Come forward to receive him, not in gloomyness and sadness, but in the joy of knowing that with the Lord in your hearts you can face the challenges of sin and suffering and overcome them. Come forward knowing that the sadness we feel is only something to learn from,
so that the joy that Christ wants us to feel may be so much greater. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, life in abundance.”
The price of that life we gained was high, but it is a life we know we will have for all eternity.
Our salvation and our eternal joy are guaranteed through the sacrifice of Jesus. We have been saved because that price was paid today, a day we truly can call Good Friday.