Today’s Good Friday solemn service is a sacred commemoration of the Suffering and Death of Jesus. Our remembrance of Jesus’ Suffering and Death on Good Friday, will only make sense, if we experience this in the light of our celebration of Jesus’ Rising from His Death on Easter Sunday. In other words, when we reflect on how much Jesus Loves us to the point of His willingness to Suffer and Die for us, we must not forget that this Divine Love of Jesus does not end on the Cross, but is fulfilled in its Glory at His Resurrection. Thus, the Suffering and Death of Jesus makes perfect sense only because there is Victory over His death and the sins of all mankind.
For us to enter more deeply into today’s Good Friday divine Mystery of God’s Suffering and Death, we must first begin by admitting that we are sinners. Unless, we are humble enough to admit that we have sinned against God and one another, today’s Good Friday commemoration, regardless of how solemn it may be, would not bring forth the conversion of our hearts that you and I need and long to have. This is because it is our sinfulness that have caused and continue to cause Jesus to suffer grievously daily.
If your child were to harm himself and others through a lifestyle of injustice, violence and immorality, would you as parents not be deeply saddened and filled with anxiety, pain and suffering, even if you yourself has not sinned? And the very reason you are feeling such traumas and tribulations is because you love your child. And thus, whatever your child does and how he lives affects you. Thus, if your child is to live a life of great virtues and Christ-like holiness, would you not be filled with peace, joy and happiness?
Likewise, my brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I have to take the responsibility and ownership of the truth that if we continue to sin and cause pain and suffering to others, we are intensifying the sufferings of Jesus who Loves us so totally and unconditionally.
If we ponder for a moment at what is happening in our secular world, we will realise that one of the main reasons why we continue to sin is because, our lives and our faith are constantly influenced by the different forms evil that promotes self-centredness, and greed for power and gratification that destroy families, divide relationships, exploit innocent lives, marginalise the poor, the needy, the aged, the sick and indeed, destroy God’s creation of the world. The secular world in which we live in continues to undermine, diminish, distort and even tries to destroy God’s Love that is present in human lives and in His Creation in the world. This being so, let us not forget that each time we sin, we are making Jesus’ Heart that is so filled with Sorrow and Grief more intense. Do we want this to happen to Jesus?
My sisters and brothers in Christ, you and I, and every human person have experienced different forms of pain and suffering. Whether we are aware of it or not, there is a tendency for us to deny the reality of pain, suffering and the inevitable death that you and I have to face sooner or later in our lives.
Dr. Charles Hattemer, a father of eight children, the director of cardiology for The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio in his reflection on Good Friday shares that today, on Good Friday, we see Jesus, pierced and dying on the Cross. Never has Jesus’ humanity been more evident. It is a day of suffering, and suffering defines the human condition. We all have suffered or will suffer. There are among us the broken hearted, and those who will be broken hearted. We know our day will come, the day when our lives are irrevocably changed by the reality of our death or the inescapable suffering we will experience.
However, our culture thrives on distracting us from facing the truth of suffering and death. Our culture and the secular world, is filling our days with wondrous things that can make us feel that the days of awful sadness will never come, or that they are so far distant that we need not bother to think of them. There is always the new thing, after all and medical research is progressing so rapidly that our day of reckoning, and the day we have to face our death, will be pushed back so far that perhaps we will be immortal.
On the contrary, Jesus in today’s Gospel is telling us something else. Pain and suffering are all around us. If we dare to look, we may be overwhelmed, even paralyzed, by the injustices and evils of our world, not to mention our own personal concerns. Pain will come, and if we are not now walking around shell-shocked, scarred and bleeding, our time will come.
But there is more. Jesus and the Scriptures are telling us something more, something different, something radical. From out of the pain and suffering will come life; eternal life that Jesus is offering us.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, this is precisely, why we are gathered here today. Through our communal service as believers, here and in Christian Churches all over the world, we are reaffirming and proclaiming to the world that God’s Love for us is a radical Love; it is a Merciful and Forgiving Love that is total and unconditional.
In today’s First Reading Prophet Isaiah in referring to Jesus, the Son of God says, “Ours is the suffering he bore; ours the sorrow He carried; He was pierced for our faults, crushed for our sins . . . and through His Wounds, we are healed . . . We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking our own way and He is burdened with the sins of all of us.”
Jesus suffered all these and embraced His Cross and Death, in total surrender because of Love. The Cross that Jesus bore and upon which He died was possible because of Love. And the Resurrection upon His death was also possible because He has Loved radically the Father’s Will to save all of humankind.
Are we willing to do the sameand love as radically and selflessly as Jesus has shown us?Are we willing to “surrender” our different attachments in our lives and cling on to Jesus’ Merciful Love for us? If we do, then we will be able to experience the Merciful Love of Jesus and the Graces of Good Friday. But, if we continue to cling on to the superficial values of the secular and materialistic world, we will inevitably live in fear and insecurity, where the greatest fear of all is to face is death. If we grip tightly to our earthly and secular living, we will never be able to receive the divine gift of peace, security and joy that God our Lord, and Jesus wants to give us.
To conclude, let us remind ourselves that every one of us and every single person is in need of God’s Merciful and Forgiving Love. Jesus in today’s Good Friday solemn service wants to wash away all our sins so that we can all receive the gift of Salvation and eternal life with God in His Resurrection.
And, if we can constantly renew our faith in Him, our Crucified and Risen Christ, then we will have the divine strength in us to face the pain, suffering and the inevitable death that will surely come our way, sooner or later. To receive this Forgiving and Merciful Love of Jesus, we have to be resolved to stop sinning and start loving Jesus more wholeheartedly. And, if we do this, then Jesus’ Sufferings and Death for us would have been worthwhile and today’s Good Friday’s celebration would surely transform our hearts and lives.
(cf. Adapted; A doctor’s Good Friday reflections, Dr Charles Hattemer, director of cardiology for The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio)
Msgr Philip Heng, S.J.
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