A Good Friday reflection
“I don’t want the death of the sinner but rather that he convert and live.” (Ezekiel 18:32)
We don’t like hearing of death; we don’t like hearing of sin or being reminded that we are sinners. But today is Viernes Santo, “Holy” Friday and we commemorate the sacrificial death of the Just who offered His life for our eternal salvation.
Whether we like it or not, we have to suffer and we will have to die, and not only us, but also our beloved ones; and not only the unjust but also those who are trying to be just. There were two thieves on each side of the cross of the Lord, you remember? The “good” and the bad thief. The three suffered and died. The only one who could have escaped suffering and death purposely chose them for Himself, not to immediately destroy them but to give suffering and death themselves a Redemptive power which will enable us—some day—after our life in this Valley of tears, to be forever free from suffering and death.
The present coronavirus crisis is weighing on us all; if not because of sickness, at least because of weariness and uncertainty.
Nobody likes to suffer, whether physically or morally; nobody wants to die. But was Our Lord’s Passion any more pleasant? Was He just acting to impress us? What kind of a joke our religion would be! Jesus truly suffered in His body and His soul.
When we are lost, depressed, when life loses its meaning, we need to think of Christ and we need to think of His Passion, which is the most beautiful manifestation of His love for us. One day, when Blessed Angela of Foligno was meditating on the Passion of Jesus, she heard His voice saying: “I did not love you as a joke.” Our Lord was deadly serious. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13).
Good Friday was not a bad luck day for Jesus of Nazareth. “He eventually got caught by His enemies. Sayang!” No, let us not forget that Our Lord, being God, planned all the details of His life — and His cruel Passion. Prophet Isaiah had announced it about 650 years earlier: “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Is. 53:5). He chose to be the “physician” of our souls (Mk 2:17), and as such, to heal us. But out of experience, we well know that say dentists or surgeons don’t cure without bringing sufferings. This is surely hard to swallow and yes, God’s ways are not our ways… But since Our Lord did not want to dispense Himself from medicinal suffering, who are to want another way?
Besides, there is beauty, there is nobility hiding behind sufferings.
Think of the pale smile on the face of a sick patient. Think of these Italian nurses who recently posted a selfie at the end of a harassing day spent with coronavirus patients: their youth and natural beauty may be somewhat hidden because of the scars of the medical masks they have worn for 12 hours straight. But their tiredness and these very scars are their true beauty and a tremendous message that trials accepted and lived with authentic love of one’s neighbor lift up the mind above the monotony of life and remind everyone of the purpose of life: a life of union with Christ our Redeemer here on earth, amidst thorns, to be one day admitted “into the joy of [our] Master.”
“Nolo mortem peccatoris…” He does not want us to die but live.
Lastly, there is in the devotion of the Way of the Cross, one station that is worth meditating upon: when Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (8th Station).
He is suffering beyond imagination. And yet, He focuses on others’ suffering and finds the strength to console them. This is a great lesson for us to overcome our depressive mood. Let us think of those that are less “lucky” than us: the destitute, the lonely, the sick and the dying. In comparison, we have nothing to complain about. Besides, after Good Friday comes the Resurrection. We will soon be able to smile at God and at our neighbor while singing a heartfelt “Alleluia.”
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BY FR. BENOIT WAILLIEZ
About the author: Fr. Benoit Wailliez is a Belgian priest of the Society of St. Pius X. Since 1997, he has exercised his ministry in Asia, in the US, in Australia, in Europe and in Asia again, for the past five years. He is currently the prior of Our Lady of Victories Church, in Quezon City, where the liturgy is exclusively offered in Latin and Gregorian Chant, as it used to be for about 2,000 years.