Friday, March 25, 2016

Of all things, how can this Friday, be "Good Friday"... Is this as good as it gets?

These past few years I have tried to put Good Friday aside, take off from work and reflect on this day, part of the Easter Triduum, the High Holy days for Christians around the world.

Yesterday, I heard the sad news of an old friend, suffering a terminal illness, a shock to all of us.  We have not been in touch for many years, except for the occasional glance at Facebook posts. We were told the news by a mutual friend, and cautioned that he and the family wanted no visitors in what seems to be his last days.

I ask for your prayers, as he and his family struggle through these days. I ask you to pause and say a prayer and ask for God's comfort to guide them through this difficult time.

Before I placed the Crucifix around my neck this morning, I studied it a bit, and noticed the Resurrected Christ on the back side of the cross. I know there is no Resurrection without the Passion, no glorified body without the Cross. The Mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection is on my mind as I suspect is on many minds throughout the world today.

I remember the days when I "lost touch" with my faith, let it drift away, with only an occasional glance during times of hardship.

"Is this as Good as it gets?"  Why is this day called "Good Friday", why is the Crucifix a sign, symbol and a sacramental for salvation? At first glance, it doesn't make sense. Why the suffering of Jesus then and why do we endure suffering today?

Jesus Christ was falsely accused, betrayed, tortured, humiliated, and hung on a cross as a sign of shame to the people of his time. He humbled Himself, took on our humanity and sin as reparation, and became a path away from our fallen nature. Today as we suffer, good people suffer, and there is no-one alive who has not suffered.

Without the Resurrection, without the love of God, breaking into our time, becoming Incarnate, this day, Easter, would all be folly.

Scriptures tell us that Jesus was well aware of his pending Passion. He truly suffered mental and obvious physical distress. Knowing the Will of the Father, Jesus accepted his Passion and set an example of Love for the world. The capital punishment of Crucifixion was meant to torture, humiliate and shame. Only God could take this and turn it on it's head, and make it a symbol of the faith and His love to save us from our sins, and provide a path to salvation. A path to right relationship with our Creator.

As I consider all the people in the Passion narrative, my soul searching continues. I recognize my fallen nature; the times that I have inflected suffering on others, the times that I have not been an instrument of peace; the times that I have been indifferent, distant, detached. This becomes ever more clear when I hear about the suffering of a friend, and the regret I have for not knowing, not reaching out to him, his family, not rebuilding the broken bridges.

Suffering brings us to our knees, changes our perspective, for better or worse.
Through it all, we have a longing for relief, the need to be made whole again, the longing for peace. I do not know why we must suffer, I can only attest to my own bouts with pain and suffering and testify to where it has formed me and brought me.

Suffering has called me to focus on relationship. The vertical relationship between God, my Creator and self, and the horizontal, between each other, the vertical and horizontal beams of the cross. I live with the hope to mend the broken relationships, recognize the times I weaken them, and work to strengthen the ones I have left, while building new ones.

Faith, introspection, contemplation, meditation, whatever the instrument, I believe we are called to ask ourselves, is this "As good as it gets?". Looking back over the decades, I see the crooked lines with which God has directed my straight path. I know now that I was never alone, even through the drifting, poor decision, and the destructive behavior. The Love which transcends this world surrounds me, and is deep inside me and you.

I know many of us will approach this Easter Season, from many perspectives. Some from a place of hurt and suffering, some from a place of joy, some from a place of indifference.  I recognize that life is a journey. I have come to believe that this is not as good as it gets and there is more, there is that which transcends, which calls us to joy and walks beside us through our suffering.  Today we remember and hope, and with God's Grace are called to action. I look and pray for the hope of self-conversion. I seek to be God's instrument, may He increase as I decrease. I ask for your continued prays and support.

May we all accept the grace, strength and understanding to follow God's Will for us. May we increase the good in our world.  May this Easter bring Love, Joy and Peace to your family and friends.