Good Friday, Year A
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?
2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *by night as well, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are the Holy One, *enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
4 Our forefathers put their trust in you; *they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 They cried out to you and were delivered; *they trusted in you and were not put to shame.
24 My praise is of him in the great assembly; *I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.
25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,and those who seek the Lord shall praise him: *”May your heart live for ever!”
26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, *and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
27 For kingship belongs to the Lord; *he rules over the nations.
28 To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *all who go down to the dust fall before him.
29 My soul shall live for him;my descendants shall serve him; *they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.
30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *the saving deeds that he has done.Psalm 22
“Were you there when they crucified the Lord?” Just a few days ago we were singing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. After years teaching, healing, wandering the countryside, the whole world was about to know the messiah. Last night we were with Jesus in the upper room, sharing the first Eucharist, all proclaiming our loyalty and bravery to stay by His side no matter what, yet we could not stay awake with him for one hour. A trial, an examination, and a mob mentality later, and here we are; the only hope for this world hanging naked, bleeding, broken, dead on a cross. The Word that spoke the universe into creation, the voice that called to Moses from the burning bush, the wisdom that taught Solomon, the song in the psalms, the voice guiding Elijah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. This is the miracle child lying in the manger lauded by wise men, loved by his parents, admired by his friends, who gives hope to the poor, lost, and lonely. A life spanning eternity and just a few years has been snuffed out.
It seems a misnomer to call this day “Good” Friday. It seems that the only thing that we can call good about today is the man hanging on the cross. In light of the coming days, it’s tempting to shrink away from today and to paint a smile over the evil we witness. We would rather turn a blind eye and look ahead to a brighter day; one where we don’t have to reflect on the evil that we allow to prey on our society and our hearts. Perhaps the greatest sin of our time is thinking ourselves better than our ancestors, that we have evolved beyond their barbaric justice. We may have different procedures and decorum, yet we are the mob who crucify Christ today.
We know how this story ends. So why stay with the gloom and darkness? Is the good of Good Friday a yearly vaccination of guilt? An inoculation against moral and social responsibility by regretting the greatest perversion of Justice in history?
No. Guilt is not Repentance, nor is shaming a solution. We may know that Jesus’ story does not end at the cross, yet we remember this day for the people we crucify. If we do not remember them, if we do not repent for them, the cross is the end of their earthly story. They are shamed by dying on the tree, and in our own shame, we leave them to die alone.
Do not be mistaken by what is happening here today. We are not at a funeral, this is not a memorial to the death of a good man, and our prayers are no eulogy, this is Anamnesis. The Holy Spirit is inviting us today not to remember something that happened long ago, but to participate in the pain, the suffering, the death God endured for us. Today we hear the passion of our Lord, we speak the words that He spoke on the cross, this is our opportunity to live into the transformative suffering of Jesus. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Today is your chance.
Why do we call this day “Good”? Today is the day we witness Goodness triumph over suffering. Today we stand with Jesus as He redeems suffering. We do not have to run in discomfort away from the shame of a hanged man, but to look on the scandal of the cross and recognize it for what it is: redeeming love. Today, and if we have the courage, every day, we offer our faults, our failures, our troubles, and our suffering to Jesus. We place our hope in the man we nailed to the tree. The days have come, and are coming, that our hope is rewarded. We are witness to the power of God transforming the suffering of the Cross into the hope for all humanity.
In His last moments on the cross, Jesus began to recite Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Matthew 27:46]. This is not an admission of defeat, but a call to action. Psalm 22 was sung regularly in the Temple during times of national distress, its haunting opening reflects the suffering of God’s people. At the same time, as the Psalm goes on, the singer recognizes that even in suffering, all things are drawn to God. God delivers humanity from suffering and gives us the courage to transform suffering into something good. Jesus recites begins the Psalm on the Cross, but leaves us to complete it. It is our task to fulfill the Psalm:
“future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”