Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
As I was preparing to share my reflections with you on this Good Friday of 2010, I considered that of all the days of the liturgical year, this would be THE DAY to have you share your reflections on the Scripture of today’s Liturgical Celebration. Throughout Lent 2010, our website has offered you special Lenten reflections via e-mail; and our website has continued to post reflections on the daily readings of the lectionary. Surely, we have the means at our disposal to share some of our thoughts about the sacredness of this day. Perhaps a Tweet, a blog, a Facebook comment, or an e-mail sent to a group of family or friends can become our own testimony to the journey we have made during Lent of 2010.
Today, Good Friday, commemorates the day on which Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross, and was laid to rest in the belly of the earth. He had surrendered himself to the power of human sin. Three days later, Jesus the Christ would be the Risen Savior who brings life eternal to all who believe in him and profess their faith in him.
This day captures the meaning of the life of Jesus as does no other. On this day he most "perfectly" fulfills the mission given Him by His Father; on this day, he embraces the human race in the most intimate embrace possible, "there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (Jn 15:13)"
The first reading, from Isaiah 52 and 53, is the account of the "Suffering Servant". The meek lamb being led to the slaughter, because "the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all". He was "pierced for our offenses", but "by his stripes we were healed." It is the paradox of vicarious suffering…that somehow, the suffering endured by one, brings the release from suffering for another.
On Easter Sunday, April 4, my family will celebrate the 13th anniversary of my father’s death. While Jose P. Carrillo would never have dared to compare his suffering from Parkinson’s Disease with the sufferings of Jesus, my mother, my brothers and sisters, were never far from that image during the last years of his life. No longer able to do for himself, tense with non-responsive muscles, or twitching with involuntary contractions, my father mirrored the agony of Jesus on the Cross in a non-bloody sacrifice of his self to our shared mortality. More reassuringly, after years of reciting his collection of daily prayers, novenas, and devotions, when he was no longer able to unwrap the rubber band from the worn prayer book stuffed with leaflets, he didn’t have to. He knew that like the "good thief", Jesus would call him home to Himself. The sufferings of Jesus freed my father from the sufferings of an all too mortal life. "…he shall take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offenses."
The second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, contains the pearl of wisdom that echoes the theme of vicarious suffering. "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Heb 5:8-9)" Don’t be misled by "perfect"; the translation is weak in capturing the meaning of "teleiotheis", which is not about divine perfection; the word is an expression of "telos", the "purpose" for which something exists. The purpose of Jesus life and being is "savior", and once "finished"/"completed", he became the source of eternal salvation…." Hence the richness of the final words of Jesus from the Cross (Jn 19:28): "it is finished/complete/perfect", again a form derived from "telos". Jesus completely wraps up our human weakness, sinfulness and mortality in his saving-act, and completely frees us to achieve our own divine purpose.
If you are unable to participate in the Good Friday Liturgy, by all means take up the Gospel of John, and meditatively read the inspired Passion text in a prayerful setting. Let the Holy Spirit of God draw you. Give thanks to God for the gift of Jesus to us, and the gift of Jesus back to the Father. "Greater love than this no one has, to lay down his life for his friends. (Jn 15:13)"
Fr. Arthur Carrillo is the local leader of the Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.