Today is the most solemn of days for followers of Christ. With compassion and sorrowful, heavy hearts we follow him to the Cross and his crucifixion. We enter a silent and holy space where we unite ourselves to Christ in his sufferings and as we do this we realize evermore how Christ’s sufferings and death unites him to us-how much God loves us and abides with us. It is our turn to abide with Jesus as he experiences the worst of being human-the inhumanity of our fellow human beings. Today there are a variety of ways to follow the way of the cross: to do it alone or in prayer, to do it inside of the church; to sit for three hours and reflect on Jesus’ words from the Cross; to be pilgrims and follow the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem; or to walk outside in the street and stop at many places where in our very neighborhoods Christ is still suffering. In many countries and in many ethnic neighborhoods in the United States the faithful walk the way of the cross before participating in a Good Friday Service.
In the pictures below a small group of faithful gather with their Pastors wearing red to symbolize the blood of Christ, to walk through the neighborhood outside of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers,Florida. ( A group of elderly and others who have trouble walking are also praying The Stations of the Cross in the church). The cross, covered with handwritten prayers of the faithful, is carried this time by Quayschaun Crews. They may stop at the hospital, the known drug houses, the homes of sick or shut-ins , the Bail Bondsman’s store,the school, etc. They will pray at each spot for Christ’s love to restore to life and heal. And, they will reflect on Jesus’ being sentenced, falling, meeting his mother and the women, Simon the Cyrenian carrying the cross, and the crucifixion, death and entombment of Jesus the Christ. They will sing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” with great depth of understanding. Then they will participate in the Good Friday Service that includes the veneration of the Cross and prayers for the world.
In following the Way of the Cross, we unite with Jesus and all who are just and treated unjustly-all who take on state and religious institutions to infuse them with greater love and suffer at the hands that should offer love and compassion. As we reflect upon Jesus’ journey to his crucifixion we also reflect upon the sufferings of humanity- from those who are gravely ill, to those who are victims of powerful and capricious others who use force where none is called for, to those who are simply different from others and left out of human mercy. We think of all those who are by human rules not welcome at the Eucharistic, Holy Communion Table where Jesus offers himself to us-and that is happening at the hands of the church he died to save and infuse with his love. Jesus invited all to the table and ate with sinners and saints alike yet man-made rules of churches refuse many including those who are divorced and remarried, those who are gay or on the LGBTQ spectrum and those who break any of the rules-like fully ordained Roman Catholic Women Priests who break the canon law stating only men can be ordained as they follow their call to the priesthood. In this year’s Passion Gospel from John we read that three women waited beneath the Cross with the Apostle John. Mary, his mother, his mother’s sister Mary, his Aunt, and Mary of Magdala. My heart breaks with those four who loved him so much they risked surrounding his cross with love while other disciples ran away. I can hear them weep and weep with them. And I weep with all who wait at crosses in their lives as loved ones suffer with illness, imprisonment, at war, or taken away into various forms of slavery. I thank God for the women and the young disciple who were with him that day. I pray that the young and the women may be welcomed to serve him as God calls.
The pictures below were taken at a rally for justice. The sign below next to “Women priests are here” held by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan,ARCWP reads “Love trumps Hate”-and that is exactly what Good Friday is about on every level of being.
As we follow Christ to the Cross we are mindful of the crosses we also bear, and some for righteousness sake. We realize the limits of human mercy as we embrace the vastness of God’s mercy in becoming fully human and suffering and dying as we do. The good news is that we can be sure that our God understands human pain and tragedy and that God loves us.
In her little book, Way of the Cross: Gateway to Resurrection, Joan Chittister, OSB writes: (The stations) require us to examine our entire philosophy of life. Jesus is condemned to die because he defied the standards of both the state and the religious establishment in which he lived. to both, he brought a truth they did not want to hear. He set out to witness to the love and justice of the God of all creation: Jews and non-Jews, women as well as men,underlings as well as the professional types of his time. He cured on the sabbath, mixed with foreigners, taught theology to women, played with children, questioned every law, chose people over ritual every time, never made authority a god. He threatened the establishment with his incessant attempts to build a better world,and they destroyed him for it.” She also asks “What in life is it for which we are willing to be condemned?” And at the last station, the tomb, she talks about the finality of some endings. she says “When Jesus submits to death of his ministry, when Jesus allows both state and synagogue to cast him out, one life ends so that another one can begin”. Indeed, after the agony of his emotional as well as physical suffering he says “It is finished” and is buried. Yet for him we know the tomb was a gateway to his resurrection. Chittister asks: Am I able to trust that the tombs of my life are all gateways to resurrection?” I pray that we are.
Jesus suffering on Good Friday causes those of us who love and try to follow him to “tremble, tremble, tremble”. The grievous events of our lives also may do this. There is no shame in this. There is no shame in love that follows, waits and weeps. But we now wait for the resurrection. Let us wait together. Amen.
May God be with us this day and in all of our sufferings and deaths, Pastor Judy Lee Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida