2 Apr, Friday — Death for Life

Good Friday

There is no Mass today. The readings are used in the afternoon celebration of the Lord’s Passion.

Isa 52:13-53:12
Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Jn 18:1-19:42

See, my servant will prosper, he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.

The fourth song of the servant by the prophet Isaiah opens with such a dazzling and glorious promise — how fitting for a day we refer to as Good. Good Friday. GOOD Friday.  

But wait a second. If we think about what happened on Good Friday, how do we still call it Good? I had recently gone through the Stations of the Cross with my children (aged 8 and 4), and more than once, had second thoughts about fleshing out to them the violent torture and death Jesus went through.  I braced myself for the inevitable question: “Mummy, why is this good?”. But that question didn’t come. Maybe next year.

But it was a Good day indeed, and very contradictory, it was good because of a Death (and a rather nasty one at that). On Good Friday, we are 2 days away from Easter. Good Friday is basically the end of the sombre Lenten season and we are this close to celebrating the greatest Victory on earth and in heaven. Yes, we should rejoice in Easter, for that was when evil, sin, and death were truly defeated. But we must not romanticise this victory to the point of forgetting the terrible day of the crucifixion, for that was quite literally the crux of our redemption. We need to always look to Christ on the cross. We need to look at Death.

First, we remember our physical death. This is not hard to do, but easily forgotten. Remembering our mortal deaths is front and centre on Ash Wednesday, when we are exhorted to sin no more and return to the gospel. We are marked (now we are sprinkled) with ashes, which signify death and mourning. We are forced to confront our eventual demise; but how many take it seriously enough, and with enough urgency to really turn away from sin? I know I forget as soon as mass is over. I had signed up for an online Memento Mori (remember your death) Lenten retreat, but, just five minutes after I read the day’s email reflection, I get distracted by yet another chore, or another past-time.  

Many of us fear death for many reasons. If I am honest, my reasons have more to do with whom I am leaving behind, and less to do with my judgment. Actually, we do need to worry about our judgment.  If we feared the effects of sin as much as we feared death, we would change our ways, we would repent, and we would die to sin. Perhaps it is not a bad idea to keep our mortal deaths at the forefront of our thoughts everyday! So live like today is your last day on earth, but in a good, Catholic way.  Yes, today is Good Friday and the start of the triumph over sin, evil, and death — but the battles are far from over. We have battles everyday. As we put on the armour of Jesus Christ, I do think that part of that armour is the thought of our death and judgment.

Second, we need to die to ourselves and die to sin. From Isaiah’s prophecies, to what Mary was told, to what happened from Jesus’ arrest to his death — that was a lot of pain and suffering and death. And for what exactly? Aren’t these things to be lamented, to be avoided? Not this time. This time, suffering and death were necessary to bring forth life. From this time, it would be death for life for all who wish to follow Christ. Yes, we are called to lead a life of contradiction, a life of denial, a life of dying to oneself, because this will lead to Life. No, this does not mean we should go looking for suffering or glorify pain. It just means that if suffering is unavoidable, choose to shoulder it for the good of someone else. It means not taking the easy way out, especially if someone else will unfairly suffer for it.

Jesus did not lead an easy life. Neither did his disciples. Nor his mother. The saints did not have an easy ride to heaven; and as for the martyrs, their sacrifices are quite self-evident. It was the feast of the Annunciation a week ago. I couldn’t help but wonder about Mother Mary’s feelings in all this. Here is someone who was told she would be the Mother of God. Then after her son was born, she was told he would suffer and die, and that her own soul will be pierced with a sword. But she knew that it was worth it. The curses and attacks hurled at her son; the whips and lance that tore and pierced him; his execution on a cross — this sword was worth it because of the life it would bring to all. As her son did, so she followed.

So today is a lot about death and dying. But I did latch onto the promise that Isaiah wrote of at the start. The glory of the Resurrection is to come. We do not have to live in misery forever. That is the good news, and that is what makes Good Friday, good. The worst and most terrible thing to happen that day was in fact the best thing to happen for us.  

Ours is not an easy faith to follow. When we need help, Mother Mary is a model for our faith — she said yes to God, despite knowing that this battle will require her son to suffer and die. She bore all the anguish that followed, because she knew that the victory at the end was worth it. If we follow her, she will lead us to her Son. And then I think we won’t worry so much about our own deaths anymore.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)

Prayer: Father God, teach us to seek you in all that we do. May we always remember that You are the centre of our lives, and that all that we do should be a testimony of Your dwelling in us.      

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for always loving and being there for us. Send your Holy Spirit to guide us in our journey.

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