Photo provided by: 
Michael Jensen

Good Friday Meditations

I.

In the garden of olives,

among the ancient trees with their gnarled bark and twisted branches

the apostles have fallen asleep,

blissfully unaware of what is about to happen.

 

By contrast, Jesus became increasingly restless and almost desperate.

Could he really go through with this?

Did he have the strength to endure the agony of a dreadful death?

 

Though fear threatened to darken his soul;

to crush his will;

and even to end his mission,

he rose above it,

uttering quietly at first,

but then stronger and stronger again:

"Not my will, but your will be done."

 

II.

As he rose from prayer, Judas approached him.

He had shared Jesus’ life for some three years.

They talked together, ate together, traveled together.

That night, he came to Jesus and kissed him one last time.

This was no kiss of love, rather, a kiss of rejection and betrayal.

 

Though they all cheered him on just days before, on that night

Judas betrayed him, his disciples abandoned him and the soldiers arrested him as if he were a criminal.

 

III.

Standing the Sanhedrin he appeared helpless, frail, vulnerably human,

not unlike the many defenseless people he set out to help.

 

He spent his life preaching and teaching,

blessing and healing,

choosing the side of the oppressed,

now he is waiting to be judged

joining the fate of all those who are oppressed,

of those who are suffering,

and ultimately, those condemned to death .

 

His fate, like that of many others,

was decided based on fear, envy and jealousy:

“You are not like us.”

 

IV.

Having abandoned Jesus in The Garden Peter returned quietly and probably somewhat sheepishly.

He warmed himself at the campfire

near the place where Jesus was held captive.

 

Jesus and Peter had a strong,

while at times tumultuous relationship.

Peter seems to have been prone to grandstanding.

Yet, he also suffered great doubts, he was afraid,

and he ran away when Jesus was arrested.

 

Like Peter, we are well-meaning and loving, yet, we are weak. 

"I am never going to betray you." And yet we do!

We love and try to live according to the Gospel, but we fail.

 

Jesus never condemned Peter, neither does he condemn us.

 

Rather, Jesus invites us to acknowledge our failings, accept our weaknesses, know our limits, ask forgiveness and try again.

 

In turn, we are asked to accept the failings of others, to show mercy to those who hurt us, and to never disregard anyone.

 

V.

This kind of mercy is not shown to him, though.

The same people who sang Hosannas mere days ago,

now cry out: “Crucify.”

 

Prejudice, insinuation, gossip, instigation, mob-mentality,

-none of which are foreign to our world today-

seal Jesus’ fate as Pilate condemns him to death.

 

Even when facing death Jesus did not waver in His love of God

in His commitment to God’s people,

and in His condemnation of injustice, religious and civic alike.

 

The cross is Jesus’ decisive stance against hatred and his ever-lasting banner of love.

 

The cross of Jesus is a permanent reminder that like Him, we are to love unconditionally and speak out against all injustice.

 

His cross is our stance against hatred,

and our banner for love even unto death.

 

VI.

Then the soldiers stripped off his clothes. 

They threatened and mocked him.

They tied his body to a pillar and whipped him.

They placed a purple cape over his bleeding shoulders and

pressed a crown of thorns into his skull.

They utterly humiliated him.

 

Like Jesus, people are imprisoned today and they are abused,

Some of them are Christians who are suffering for their faith

Some of them will die for Christ.

 

Others are not Christian and they too suffer

and they too might die, for their faith.

 

Jesus endured this profound humiliation to expose all abuse;

to show that God is on the side of all victims;

and that violence is never of God.

 

VII.

Moving slowly,

bent under the weight of the wood,

arduous step after arduous step,

Jesus carries his cross.

 

The cross of Jesus is heavy,

weighed down by all the misery and evil in our world.

He staggers under this burden.

He falls and gets up, falls and gets up, falls and gets up,

never giving up on even one of us.

 

Gazing upon Jesus carrying the cross,

may we be inspired to mend our sinful ways,

and turn from deeds of darkness to acts of light,

and so lift the burdens that not only weigh down Jesus,

but weigh down so many people around us.

 

Shouldering the cross, Jesus teaches us to reject all sin and injustice,

and to struggle for solidarity and hope,

arduous step after arduous step.

 

VIII.

Simon of Cyrene is a passer-by, an on-looker,

whose curiosity is peeked by all that is happening? 

A stranger, he is pressed into helping Jesus,

buttressing the weight of the cross.

 

Like Simon was asked to help Jesus carry his cross,

we are called to carry one another's cross.

 

IX.

Women accompanied Jesus from the very beginning.

They ministered to the needy with him;

They spread the Good News alongside him;

They were faith-filled, courageous, and committed to his mission.

 

Seeing how Jesus struggled to carry his cross,

how he had been abandoned by all but one of his disciples,

the women ignored the soldiers and walked up to him,

They embraced him.

They wiped his face.

They offered him solace, even but for a moment.

 

Jesus’ suffering continues unto today,

for he suffers with all those who suffer;

their suffering is his suffering;

and his suffering is our suffering,

 

Therefore,

we must be courageous like the women of Jerusalem.

We must stand up to those who cause and perpetuate injustices.

And we must console and help those in need.

 

X.

Having arrived at Golgotha they laid his body on a cross,

they stretched his arms and legs over the wood,

they pounded nails into his hands and feet

and raised the cross.

                  

Naked, humiliated, tortured, disfigured,

the Son of God hangs on a cross:

a sign of foolishness to many,

the way to salvation for us.

 

Hanging on the cross,

Jesus, an innocent victim,

embodied all victims,

thus unmistakably stating

that God is on the side of those

who are marginalized, ignored, avoided, deserted .

 

Like Jesus we are called to stand by those in need,

drawing them near, treating them with respect,

comforting them, accompanying them,

raising them up and offering them hope and new life.

 

XI.

Next to the cross of Jesus we see two other crosses,

one is bathed in light and anticipation,

the other is engulfed in darkness and dread.

 

The God of love reaches out to those who repent

and showers them with love.

How wonderful to know that we who are sinners

are worthy of God's love,

are deserving of God's forgiveness.

 

Aware of our sinfulness,

we are invited to ask God to forgives us our sins,

as we forgive those who have sinned against us,

so that one day we may all share in Paradise

 

XII.

By the shadows of loneliness and confusion are crowding the scene.

Only a few people remained with Jesus,

among the women, there was Mary, the mother of Jesus,

and there was also John, his beloved disciple.

 

Jesus instructed them to find solace with one another,

to take care of one another.

 

In the midst of sadness and confusion

there is a glimmer of light:

“behold your mother, behold your son.”

 

These words, Jesus not only addressed to Mary and John,

but to all his followers.

 

Thus, Mary became not only the mother of Jesus

but also the mother of John and the mother of all of us.

 

Having the same heavenly mother

makes us brothers and sisters to one another.

And like John cared for Mary we are to care for one another.

 

XIII.

Very little light was left.

The darkness was nearly all-consuming.

Death seemed to have conquered life.

The fires of hell rushed toward the cross.

 

At the depth of anguish

and at the height of pain

Jesus cried out "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

 

This is the spoken or unspoken cry of so many, struck by hardship.

It may have been our cry in the past.

Maybe it even is our cry today.

“why have you forsaken me?"

 

Yet God seems silent, both then and now.

 

In this apparent silence

we behold God’s mysterious response to our cry for help,

hanging on the Cross,

Jesus, the Son of God

who accepted death so we might live.

 

XIV.

All of creation  is still now.

 

After lowering Jesus from the cross,

His lifeless body is placed in his mother’s arms.

 

Cradling his body, Mary is bound to him in a heart-wrenching embrace.

She is the icon of the broken hearted.

She is the icon of boundless love.

She is the icon of self-sacrifice.

 

This scene is played out, over and over again

all over the world.

 

Too many people, like Mary,

have cradled the lifeless and tortured body of an innocent,

loved one in their arms?

 

Then the body of Jesus was placed in the tomb

and a heavy stone was rolled in front of the entrance.

 

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