Good Friday 2020  – The Gift of Simple Presence on Good Friday

Just before I completed this post, I watched Pope Francis on Salt and Light. The Urbi et Orbi blessing on Friday, March 27 was an invocation to the Lord, for an end to the pandemic that is sweeping our globe and potentially uniting us in a powerful way such as we have never seen in our lifetime.

Our war is not with one another. This battle is not confined to any one region, class, language or way of life. It is a battle against an invisible enemy. The hour-long prayer from the Vatican had a stark and beautiful simplicity to it. Our Good Friday celebration shares in that simplicity.

We are invited today to a simple and sincere presence to Christ on the cross. May we be strengthened by his suffering and death! May this Good Friday increase within each of us that way in which we all find ourselves at the foot of the cross!

There is nothing we can do to alleviate the suffering of Jesus. Nor can we take his place on the Cross. We are invited today to a simple contemplative presence, to be lovingly present and allow that to have an impact on our way of being engaged with the pain and suffering of those in our midst, especially in this unprecedented moment.

The Passion of Christ is being lived out by millions of people throughout the world. Let’s keep them in mind as we contemplate the players in John’s account of the Passion of Jesus Christ.

The central character is Jesus himself. Despite all that is happening to him and around him, Jesus remains firmly fixed on his mission. He doesn’t waver in his focus. The Prophet Isaiah used the phrase to describe the suffering servant, he has set his face like flint. Thus, Jesus is not afraid of questions from the authorities. He says to the high priest, I have spoken openly to the world. … I have said nothing in secret.

He displays concern for others. His words in the garden: I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go. Later on, at the cross, he connects the beloved disciple and his own mother. Woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.

I believe that on this day he also helps each of us to make connections with all who are suffering because of COVID-19.

The disciples are confused and fearful. They lack the same focus and conviction as Jesus. Some scatter and others stay at a safe distance. Simon Peter, having used his sword in the garden, later denies associating with Jesus.

One former disciple had more focus. Unfortunately Judas was intent on other motives. Was it the money? Was it the praise of the authorities? Who knows! Whatever the intention, he must have had a troubled heart.

There is a whole battery of soldiers, police, authorities such as the high priest, the woman who guarded the gate, the soldiers who actually crucified Jesus, and the crowd. Some of them are just doing their job. Others don’t really want to be involved in the whole thing.

Pilate says, Take him yourselves and judge him according to your laws … I find no case against him. Pilate tried to have Jesus released, all to no avail. All of these characters are players in a drama that has more meaning than any of them can possibly understand.

Then, there are those who stayed with Jesus until the end and those who attended to his body after his death: Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary, the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom Jesus loved, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. All must have had mixed emotions in their hearts.

We benefit from being with Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of the cross. What is going on within her heart? No doubt, there is a flood of memories: the unusual circumstances around his conception, the birth in Bethlehem, the presentation in the temple and the mysterious words from Anna and Simeon, the incident in the temple at the age of twelve, and Jesus growth and maturity until he left home at the age of thirty.

Let’s take some time today to be with Mary and the others. What can they help us see about the many in our world who manifest the passion in how they live? How do they help make us attentive to the suffering of Christ throughout the world in this unprecedented time?

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 02:29h, 10 April Reply

    Having read your beautiful description of the whole Passion of Jesus and now having just watched it live online, it has strengthened my faith even more. I didn’t have to sneak away as did the early Christians to the secret crypts for fear of discovery. I know I am part of our open and welcoming Church. Surely the gates of hell will never ‘prevail’ against our faith, and nor, the corona virus. Because of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, as Julian of Norwich so wisely predicted, ‘all will be well and all will be very well – hopefully in our own lifetime.

  • Joe Newman SJ
    Posted at 08:00h, 10 April Reply

    Thank you Philip – I’m moved by your reflection.

  • Jeanette Woodley
    Posted at 09:04h, 10 April Reply

    Stabat Mater. Mary stood…by the cross of her Son, Jesus. Thank you Fr. Philip. Your suggestion is an excellent way to make holy this Good Friday for each one of us. To stand by Mary as she stood by the cross.

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 09:05h, 10 April Reply

    The few who stayed with Jesus until the end rightly inspire us with awe: the mother of Jesus, her heart pierced with the uttermost grief; the other Marys who quietly prepared His body for burial; Joseph Arimathea and Nicodemus, Sanhedrin members who exhibited exceptional courage and fearlessness while His apostles variously betrayed Him, stayed at a safe distance, even denied knowing Him. In our current pandemic, doctors, health care workers and volunteers take enormous risks to selflessly serve the community. They are our present day heroes!

  • Michelle Kotak
    Posted at 09:19h, 10 April Reply

    Thank you for helping me set the tone for my day of reflection.

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 09:53h, 10 April Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Peter Monty
    Posted at 12:03h, 10 April Reply

    Thank you Phil, for the depth & sensitivity of reflection.

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 12:52h, 10 April Reply

    Thank you Fr Philip, for expressing in these dark times, what we need to be mindful of, in our lives on earth. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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