Today, I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine: to deliver a “homily” at a Catholic church service. Because it is Good Friday, and it is not technically a mass, lay parishioners are allowed to deliver a reflection. This year, I was asked to offer my thoughts.
When I was growing up, I always knew better than to ask my mom if I was allowed to do anything during Holy Week. On our refrigerator, she would post the church bulletin and with a highlighter, go through and underline every single mass, reconciliation time, and service offered. I was the youngest of four and all of us were expected to attend, no matter what was going on. No exceptions.
It got really difficult when I was in high school. And since it was Easter break, people would have all kinds of get-togethers and parties. And since we were on vacation, you knew everyone was going to be there. Everyone, that is, but me. One time, though, I did get the nerve to ask my mom if I could go to a party. She just raised her eyebrows at me and say, “Lisa, are you going to a party on the day of our Lord’s death?”
So, you can imagine, I did not go.
I didn’t want to be a party-goer during Good Friday, so I just thought to myself, “This is just a sacrifice I’ll make by staying home.” All the while, though, I was wishing I was with my friends. Remember, as a teenager, staying home on a Friday night of vacation was a really, big deal.
My mom was right. Today is a day, among many things, about grief. It is a day typically marked with solemnity, a sobering awareness that’s almost palpable. Good Friday is when we relive the most intense story in the gospel – the Passion. It is a time that we, typically and appropriately, regard with mourning and reflective hearts. It is, after all, the day that Jesus dies.
How do we move into these hours? Is it with heavy hearts? Spiritually, that makes sense. But is there more to Good Friday than just the quiet grief and observation of Jesus’ death? Perhaps it is more than just staying home and self-sacrifice. Perhaps it is more than just the quiet 3 o’clock hour.
Personally, I know that I am able to move through this darkness because I know the light of the resurrection is but stone roll away. I have heard the sounds of Easter before, I have seen Easter lilies bloom. I have the strength to move through the darkness of Good Friday because I know and believe that today will pass. Friday passes into Holy Saturday and Holy Saturday gives way to a Sunday miracle.
But, is that what I want my Good Friday to be about? Waiting for Sunday? What is your Good Friday about? Perhaps Good Friday is the opportunity to find and witness someone else’s passion. Who in your world, who in your life, who in your heart do you know is dying? Who are those people in your life whose tomorrow, next week, and all the days of this year will be Good Friday?
Today we gather and remember the suffering of Christ. It’s easy to be overcome by the physicality of Jesus’ suffering: the scourging, the crown of thorns, three falls of Christ. But what haunts me the most about the Passion is that Jesus, who walked in the knowledge, faith, and trust that he was God’s son, believed that he was abandoned by God. Jesus! I cannot think of a more crushing anguish or more profound loneliness than to believe you have been forgotten, even forsaken, by God. The one who created you.
Someone, somewhere today is going through precisely that pain, that division from God, believing that they are forgotten. Beyond these walls, or maybe within these walls there are those who are living the Good Friday that Jesus experienced. I don’t know any one in my life who endured the brutal violence Jesus did, but I do know people who are going through the psychological and spiritual trauma Jesus did. In my world, I see my friend Katherine who is ostracized from her family because she is a lesbian and is no longer invited to her family’s Easter celebrations. I see a place called Payatas, a community I visited in the Philippines that lives at the base of dumpster where the people sift through the garbage with their bare hands for food that can be recooked for their families. I see my friend Emily who has been trying but has not been able to conceive a child for many years. I think of my mother who is walking with her mother through the last stages of life.
Who in your life is in the darkness? And who are we to be afraid to bring light to them? If Good Friday is anything, it is a day to put aside any fear we may have, and let the light of God move the stone from someone’s tomb.
How do we do that? For myself, I write letters. I send handwritten letters on ordinary days. I try not to wait for holidays or birthdays or anniversaries to remind someone they are not forgotten. This may seem very small or just a crack at their seemingly insurmountable suffering, but I am often amazed at how much light comes through one small crack. But what is even more astounding to witness is how much darkness is dispelled by that crack.
To truly follow Christ is not just observing his death, but remembering why he died. Jesus was killed because he brought light to those in darkness. So, perhaps today is more than just brokenness and sacrifice. Perhaps it is a day not to enter, not be enveloped, not become one with the darkness, but to be the light, however small.
I would like to leave you with one question and I hope you can come back to it often as you move through your Good Friday: What will you do to dispel the darkness?