I found today very moving. Culturally, the Christian commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday could seem to be a glorification of a violent death, or an excuse to unhealthily wallow in overly dramatic guilt. In past centuries, to my Christian church’s shame, the crucifixion of Jesus has even been used as an excuse for anti-semitism. (I am glad to say recent Popes up to and including Pope Francis have specifically spoken against such an attitude, but it remains a deep shame for Roman Catholics to recognise in their history.)
Good Friday has never been my favourite feast day.
But today, at the Good Friday service at our local Franciscan college, I found the service to be a beautiful celebration of Love in the midst of failure. Good Friday is when a story – a narrative- seems to have gone wrong. It isn’t supposed to be like this. Our culture celebrates Christmas, but now it is about someone – not just a good and loving person but Love personified – being beaten up and falling on the road under a heavy burden, and dying on a cross. That’s not so much fun. In life and in fiction we want good people not to suffer. We don’t want friends to betray us, or run away. We don’t want to be the betrayers, or the cowards. It’s all a bit horrible, really.
It might seem to be a strange sort of thing to figure in Art or Literature for centuries, and a weird religious feast-day. But today I came to church acutely aware of things in my life which don’t fit the narrative I’d like them to. I can think of lots of areas where I wish I had been better – was being better. I wish I was more loving, and I wish I could sort out problems in some of my relationships. I lost a very old friendship some years ago, and I don’t know how to fix it. I do not know how to get on with some members of my wider family, and it seems to me that we are caught in pain that we have inherited, and are not capable of sorting it out by ourselves. I am certainly not. And it isn’t hard to see the same patterns all over the world. Pain and crap and just general unfairness, and good people suffering and being treated like rubbish, and ordinary people falling short of being the loving, supportive friends they would like to be. And some people just doing plain evil things.
So today, I found Good Friday very moving. I love the idea of the Christ-child at Christmas – but today I found the general disappointment and messiness and pain of how it all went wrong for Jesus a painful but somehow beautiful part of the story and an equal sign of God becoming human, and I loved the bit where, after the crucifixion, two secret disciples – Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus – people who were too cowardly during Jesus’ life time to admit to following him – FINALLY did the right thing when it was too late, admitted they were his disciples, took his body, wrapped in linen cloths and ointment, and buried it in a tomb in a garden.
And I’m glad to say that the next instalment of the story is MUCH happier, to put it mildly…
I hope that EVERYONE reading this, those who believe the religious story or those who simply enjoy a well-earned holiday – are comforted in any pain or disappointment they may have experienced when things have not gone to plan – feel the presence of Love and Life in their lives again – and have a lovely Easter!