Friday, March 25, 2005

Making This Friday Good.

This year I'm marking the Triduum at the historic (and beautiful) Mission Santa Clara de Asis on the Santa Clara University campus, a one-minute walk away from my digs in Nobili Hall. So far, so good - last night's Holy Thursday Mass and today's Commemoration of the Lord's Passion have both been excellent, and I'm sure tomorrow night's Easter Vigil Mass will be strong as well. Nonetheless, I still find my mind wandering to memories of the fine Triduum services I attended last year at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto on the campus of Saint Mary's College at Notre Dame. Particular details from last year's Triduum linger in my memory, such as the last line of Father Paul Kollman's stellar Good Friday homily, which went more or less like this: "It is difficult to make this cross holy, and it is hard to make this Friday good."

It is hard to make this Friday good. Many Christians scratch their heads at the seemingly odd naming of the day on which we commemorate Jesus' death on the cross. At the same time, however, if we rack our brains we can also come up with many reasons why this is in fact a "Good" Friday. We believe that Christ died to free us from our sins - that's a pretty good deal, isn't it? We also believe that Christ rose in glory from the dead, which would seem to make his terrible death a preparation for better things and thus in some sense a good event. And we believe too that the death of Christ was necessary and foretold as part of a larger plan, a plan made good insomuch as it was drawn up by a good God. We can also argue that this day is good in that Christ's death offers us an example of patient and redemptive endurance of extreme suffering. There are a lot of ways in which we can make this a Good Friday. The best way, I think, is to enter into the Passion as fully as we can.

Truly entering into the Passion can be a real challenge, given the sheer familiarity of the Passion story and the difficulty of really paying attention to a Gospel reading we've heard proclaimed innumerable times. However, if we can find a way to listen to the Passion with new ears - listening as though for the first time - we can open ourselves to sharing in a very personal way the feelings of the story's participants. John's vivid and dramatic account of Jesus' trial and death offers a wonderful catalyst for prayerful reflection. Try to imagine the scenes as well as you can, and try to imagine the way that the different characters felt. How did Peter feel about his denial of Jesus? How did Judas feel about his acts of betrayal? How did Pontius Pilate feel about the difficult situation he was confronted with? How did Mary feel when she saw her son on the cross? Above all, how did Jesus feel throughout the events of the Passion?

The account of the Passion we hear proclaimed on Good Friday offers powerful food for thought and for prayer. If we respond to the invitation to enter into the story of Jesus' death, this Friday can be a very good one for each of us. AMDG.


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