Good Friday 2020
“Sorrow can lead us into one of four lands. The barren land in which we try to escape from it. The broken land in which we sink under it. The bitter land in which we resent it. Or the better land in which we bear it and become a blessing to others.” – Anonymous
We do have our own experience of sorrow and suffering in our lives. And when they come, like this Covid-19 crisis, our lives turn upside down. We begin to doubt the love of God. But sorrow and suffering are part and parcel of our lives. They challenge our faith to its core. At this point, we can easily identify with Jesus as he cried out loud, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
When my Tatay Paco died many years ago, it was one of the most painful moments of my life. How could I forget that moment when I seriously doubted God’s love? I remember that evening while I was looking at my father suffering in the hospital, I remember myself blaming God: “I gave up everything to serve you, how come you are not helping us? Where are you when I needed you most?” But God remained silent. I felt abandoned. Ignored. Alone. In darkness.
The pain of abandonment crept into my heart. I cried inside. I blamed God. But to my surprise, in the middle of my agony and doubt, I found myself silently singing the song “Holy Darkness.” Then … a glimpse of consolation sweetly entered into my wounded spirit and miraculously eased pain. The following lines struck me most: “Holy darkness, blessed night, Heaven’s answer hidden from our sight. As we wait for the God of silence, we embrace this holy night.” Those lines hit my soul to my core. God was asking me to trust him more as darkness comes, for faith is tested when one faces his own sorrow and pain. Truly, faith grows deeper in pain and suffering.
Today is Good Friday. Today, as we enter into a month-long period of agony amidst this Covid-19 crisis, God is inviting us to look at Jesus whom we have pierced on the cross. It’s ironic and inconceivable that when we look at Jesus hanging on the cross, we gain strength and consolation. The cross becomes the symbol of love, commitment and hope, and not of defeat and destruction. As we accompany Jesus in his passion and death, we are also invited to follow his example by embracing our own crosses. As his disciples, Jesus does not want us to run away, or to be a bitter person, or to sink into depression or to doubt his love for us, as we face this pandemic that is sweeping the whole world He wants us to faithfully carry our crosses and find its meaning. He wants us to seek the light in the midst of darkness. He wants us to stand, be brave, do something and not allow darkness to rule us.
We admire people who have bravely carried their crosses. We admire the doctors, nurses and medical staff who put their lives in danger to save hundreds of infected people. We have lost a good number of our heroes. They have suffered so much for us, just to save the world from annihilation. Yet, their determination and unwavering courage in the face of real danger encourage us to live outside our comfort zones and do our part.
A friend of mine died of cancer two years ago. I admired how she willingly accepted her fate and surrendered her life to God. She suffered terribly but she died in peace. Cancer did not stop her from loving God. She found the meaning of her suffering. We have our share of suffering but we miss the meaning because we dwell too much on our own bitterness and sorrow and fail to transcend them.
The death of Jesus is not a sign of scandal, shame or defeat. It is the ultimate sign of Jesus’ total surrender to the Father’s will. Jesus persevered in his suffering out of his great love for us, and he gained salvation for us. He knew the meaning of his cross and he gladly carried it.
Let’s not allow our pain and tears to stop us from finding the meaning of our suffering. Look up intently on the cross with total humility and resignation. The meaning of your suffering rests in the crucified Jesus. And you would know why Jesus willingly said, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit” and then finally said, “IT IS FINISHED.”
Let’s choose to live and live for others.
A Good Friday Prayer
give me the courage
to embrace my daily cross
and carry it with my whole heart.
I am your child, allow me to discover
the strength and power to overcome
all my fears, anxiety and challenges.
Allow me to accompany you
in your passion and death today.
I am your friend – I don’t want to be
a coward and a quitter anymore.
Starting today, let me draw strength
from your commitment to die for me,
and like you, let me die for others.
Let me learn how to love you
with all my heart and soul.
*image from the Internet