Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16.5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42)

Gloria was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She is a middle-aged wife and mother and deeply committed to God. Because the first kind of chemo-therapy did not halt her disease, she has begun another, more powerful regimen. She has started to lose hair and feels tired. Yet Gloria’s faith remains strong. She knows that there is no need to worry. The gracious Lord, who has blessed her abundantly so far in life, will not leave her side. She can count on him as much as a runner on the track beneath his feet.

Gloria’s faith derives its strength from the vision of Jesus undergoing death in the Gospel according to John. He is entirely in control of what happens. The cohort of soldiers does not surprise him in the garden; rather, he goes out to meet it. When Jesus identifies himself, the soldiers fall to the ground as if they were worshipping him. When Pilate tries to intimidate Jesus, Jesus calmly tells him that any power he has comes “from above” where he is from. On the cross Jesus gives consolation to both his mother and beloved friend and dies only when his mission “is finished.” Finally, Jesus is buried like the king that he is and that the world has recognized by the sign on his cross in three languages.

Earlier in the gospel Jesus said that when he is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself. He meant that at his crucifixion the world would have the opportunity to reject or accept him. Rejecting him means fulfilling our own desires without regard to his commands. If we follow that road, we have to fret when death threatens because it will take away all that we hold dear. Accepting him, we stretch our concern to do his will despite what it may cost us. Then when death comes calling, we have nothing to fear. As the tomb could not contain Jesus, he will make it a temporary residence for us.