Good Friday 2022 in Two Parts:(I) An Introduction to three Good Friday reflections by Michael Coutts, SJ. And (II): Watch and Pray by Philip Shano, SJ
Part One: An introduction and three Reflections by Michael Coutts, SJ
Each year, our Good Friday reading is taken from the Gospel according to John. In the Passion story, Matthew, Luke and Mark stress the humanity of Jesus. John however highlights the Divinity. As a result, you will not hear in the Passion of Jesus according to John.
- Let this Chalice pass me by.
- My God, My God why have you forsaken me!
And yet we call it the Passion of Our Lord. Passion involves suffering. The greatest suffering we have is when we cannot do what we will, what we choose and what we desire. Jesus gives up precisely this choice. Jesus undertakes the passion because he was obedient to the Father – obedient even unto death, death on the cross. Obedient until he can say: “It is accomplished”
Like Jesus we suffer constantly little deaths. In Spanish they call it mordita. Parents stay awake through the night with a sick child, they do not quit working with a boss who bullies or an employee who is rude, and they reach out in love and care when they see a need. It is a constant passion – in more senses of the word.
Jesus knew that passion, suffering and death was not the end. “I lay down my life, to pick it up again.” Jesus invites you and me into that same understanding and knowledge. I call you friends he said, I make known to you the Father’s love. So we join in the Passion with the sure hope of this blessed assurance.
Reflection One: Jesus knowing all that was to happen.
Jesus knew that Judas was set to betray him. Jesus however loved him so much, that he pre-empted the betrayal. He approached the guards before Judas would kiss him.
Peter did not betray, but he denied! He had boasted, if others deny you, I will not. We will see his denial in neon lights. “I do not know the man.” Yet Jesus gives Peter the keys of the Kingdom. Furthermore, Peter is entrusted to feed, nourish and care for the sheep. Jesus’ love is seen in those who fall, but then get up and continue to follow him.
Jesus knows all that is to happen. Through the ages he will see betrayals and denials at sometime in each of our lives. But Jesus is faithful in love.
He knows parents and grandparents, single Christians and religious desire the best for the sheep entrusted to them. They are in anguish when children do not practice the faith, when children seek their identity in bigger salaries, bigger houses and bigger cars, when children are too busy to visit, to phone or even show they care.
But Jesus also knows that these same parents and grandparents – have also witnessed the resurrection in that suffering – when children show their gratitude, when children reach out to the poor and needy, when children are caring. Jesus knows this, the same way as he knew what would happen in Gethsemane, in the House of Caiaphas and in the palace of Herod. Jesus said yes to the Father’s Will – and will help us to do the same.
Reflection Two: You have no power over me, unless it has been given to you.
Jesus had said in John 10:17 The Father loves me because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. Jesus is totally in control. In this knowledge and conviction, Jesus could tell Pilate You have no power over me, unless it has been given to you. We are told Pilate grew frightened and rightly so.
God has given us the free will to accept the Word made Flesh. To those who accept the Word, they have the power to be called children of God. We can refuse and we have refused – but God will never take away our free will to make a choice. Nevertheless, the All wise and Almighty God has found a way for our salvation and our redemption – even when we have been deaf, dumb and closed our hearts to the Word of God.
We have this extraordinary scene of Jesus and Pilate. Jesus has been scourged, he has a crown of thorns, he is weak and yet! He is in charge. Pilate says: “Ecce Homo. Behold the man.” But our gaze is not on Jesus, but on Pilate. He is less than a man. He gives way to the crowd.
When we know that we are loved by God, supported by family and friends, when we are strengthened in our own faith, we can handle anything.
Psalm 22:6 says But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
Jesus looked like that.
Sometimes we feel like that.
But God gives us grace upon grace, – skill and talent to face the reality of this world. Alone I may not be able to do it, but with faith in Christ, I can handle anything.
Reflection Three: Standing by the Cross was his mother
It was a patriarchal society. It was remarkable the number of women that played a large role in the Ministry of Jesus. By the Cross, we find three women. One is Mary, the mother of Jesus. To stand by a person meant you bore witness to them, you cared for them, you made yourself responsible for their life and action.
Mary stood at the foot of the Cross as a loving Mother, but also as a disciple par excellence of Jesus. She witnessed to the fact that Jesus was obedient unto death, death on a cross. Jesus hands over to Mary – our church: Behold your son – fittingly called the unnamed disciple. You and me.
Mary stands by the cross. She stands for all mothers and wives, sisters and religious to whom the church was entrusted – as well. Mary wants so badly to help Jesus on the Cross – but she cannot. Women through the ages have felt the same – sometimes due to culture, tradition, custom, sometimes due to stubbornness on the part of others. They will not be permitted.
In Mary there is no bitterness or complaint. Mary pondered these things in her heart – and continued to do the work of caring for the Body of Christ, you and me. Women in our church do the same.
From that hour the disciple took her into his own home. Like the unnamed disciple – we cannot do any better than take Mary into our home and our hearts. We do this in the way we treat men and women around us. We take them to our home – we care for and we are concerned about them.
Optional – From Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Aspects of Love.
Love, Love changes everything
Hands and faces, earth and sky
Love, Love changes everything
How we live and how we die
PART TWO :
Good Friday – Watch and Pray by Philip Shano, SJ
The Taizé chants sometimes intoned at the Good Friday liturgy are simple and repetitive. They have the potential to settle into our consciousness and bring us to a place of peace. That is certainly conducive to the invitation to prayer that accompanies the starkness of this day.
The altar has been stripped bare, lacking cloths, candles or cross. The highlights of the celebration include the reading of the Passion from John’s Gospel, the solemn intercessions, the veneration of the cross and a communion service.
It does not require much imagination to make the connection between the mysteries of Good Friday and the reality of our world: the state of the planet itself, the global political reality, the present wars raging around the world, or the multilayered impact of the pandemic.
Most of us don’t need to take a global look. We see the Lord’s Passion in personal and local ways. I don’t think that a week goes by without my hearing of a friend/colleague/contact dealing with the reality of the cross in their lives, or the reality of someone close to them being close to death.
Have you ever sat keeping watch with a dying person? Recalling that experience is a good means of entering into the humble simplicity of this day. When St Ignatius of Loyola has us contemplate the Passion of Christ, he says, “it is proper to ask for sorrow with Christ in sorrow, anguish with Christ in anguish.”
I usually suggest to people who are praying with this that the most significant word there is with. I am with Christ in his sufferings. Let us take time to be with Jesus on the Cross. There is not much to do; being with is sufficient.
I have often been with dying Jesuits in the past several years. To walk into the room of the Jesuit and see people sitting quietly with him – praying the rosary, reading something spiritual, holding his hand – is reminiscent of what I feel when I walk into a chapel with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
You know immediately that you have walked onto sacred ground and that there is a sense of peace and the nearness of God. No one has to say anything. It’s okay to just sit in silence.
That is what is happening in these final days of Holy Week. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus asks his followers to watch one hour with him as he prays and eventually comes to an acceptance of what is in store for him. He does not ask much, just that he not be alone in this moment of agony.
The Gospels tell us about the followers of Jesus – especially his Mother Mary and his closest friends – and how they stayed at the Cross. In neither situation
All Jesus asks of us at this sacred time is to be with him. We are with him in prayer and presence. He asks us to be with him, to watch and pray. That takes stillness. The disciples in the Garden had a difficult time staying awake and alert.
BY Philip Shano, SJ