Walking in Pain and Empathy on Good Friday

As my faith has richened with Bible study and reflection on the sermons of my Pastor and the commentary on scripture I have written devotionals on, it has struck me that Good Friday is indeed the most important and meaningful Holy day of  the year.

It is symbolic, for me, of the essential tenet of Christian faith, i.e., Grace.  God gave his only Son for our salvation, and in doing so saved us from the devil and forgave us our sins.  There has been no greater gift to mankind in the history of the world, when you stop and ponder the sheer magnitude of our sinfulness.

This is reflected in, and symbolized by, the horrific and excruciating physical torture; rending; lashing and defilement of He Who is God made flesh.

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( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Observe that:

–Depictions of Christ’s Passion can never be “over the top” when one considers the depths of man’s depravity toward fellow men; the folly of greed; pride and coveting, and the wallowing of our society in the shallow seas of materialism.  Small wonder that his suffering and death were so visceral and cruel.

–The physical suffering and the rending of flesh were warranted by the fact that Jesus was a man, however sinless.  The flesh in us can only truly cringe if we note that Christ, like us, was flesh and blood.

–That His suffering of scorn and ridicule was emblematic of the message God was moved to convey:  As the Son of God; he could easily have responded to deriding exhortations to “save yourself, if you are the Son of God”.  That he did not, and, instead, suffered both the torment of his fellow man and His forsaking by his father, is eloquent in depicting his acceptance of his mission to die for us rather than to prove Himself as being something other than us.

–He was “us”.  He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  As a man, even Jesus, due to his flesh and his heart and his brain, cried out for some solace; some sign that his Father could help him or come to His aid in this blackest of hours.  Indeed, His sacrifice, depicted in gruesome and gory detail, was “Good” for us.

It is fitting that Good Friday is, like Easter, assigned no date certain on modern calendars.  So momentous an occasion cannot be fixed on any mortally-invented calendar.  It rather is simply the ‘Friday before Easter’.  The joy of Easter and the celebration and exaltation of  his rising again to join His Father is enhanced and made more meaningful by its’ contrast to the blackness of the events on that blessed Friday.

For what is happiness unless one has first experienced sorrow?

That last question leads me to pose others:

–How can we purport to abide by Gods’ command to love one another unless we first experience their pain and sorrow?

–Should not our love of God be all the more intense and visceral when the pain; anguish and death of his only Son resulted in the tearing asunder of the temple veil which had, at long last, ended the separation between man and God?

–How can we ask the forbearance of others of our weaknesses and limitations unless we empathize with theirs?

Mortality is fleeting.  As such, suffering; sadness and pain, though inherent in the human lot, are also fleeting..  Whatever your answers to the questions above; strive to acknowledge Gods’ Grace by sharing it.  It can only be shared.  Let the Holy Spirit in your heart reach out and share your pain with others and let you see that your pain, and theirs, are but darknesses preceding the Light.

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

Rejoice that Jesus lives in every heart, and suffers with us every day, so that we can one day know that the ‘veils’ we perceive are of our own making, not Gods‘.

 

 

 

 

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Walking Into The Light….An Easter Reflection On The Dichotomy of ‘Death’

“Don’t be afraid your life will end…be afraid that it will never begin!”…….(Anonymous)

This Easter will doubtless be like almost all Easters before it…..a special day for the devout who may enjoy a breakfast at church before Mass….a day of  egg hunts; chocolate bunnies and gladiator movies for the the children of the secular.  Feasts of ham; hard-boiled eggs and yellow bread with crusts of gold will sate the hunger of the devout and secular alike.  To many, perhaps the most puzzling aspect of this ‘holiday’ is that, though it always falls on a ‘Sunday’, there is never an employer-sanctioned Saturday and/or Monday off from work in recognition of it.

Perhaps this is fitting….an unintentional sacrifice of “time off” from work in recognition of Lenten forbearance.  That grocers and clothiers; vendors of ham and of chocolate; and twice-a-year church attendees all alter their marketing; inventory; and Sunday morning habits, all attest to a ‘special’ nature to this glorious day.  Not even Christmas; Hanukkah (or even ‘Festivus’)…can match the glory the import, or indeed……the message of Easter.

This day commemorates a singular message:   The ‘Lamb of God’, having suffered and died for our sin, was resurrected and rose to be seated at the right hand of the Father.  As God made flesh, he bore the burden of all our sins, and asks nothing in return save, perhaps, that we love each other and share a Grace we can never earn or merit.  Most would agree that seems an excellent bargain……yet, how many of us afford more than ‘lip service’ of an occasional contribution to a charity or a periodic visit to church?

Whether we attend like clockwork or visit twice a year in newly purchased finery of raiment, do we really understand or comprehend the true meaning of this Grace?   That churches of today are increasingly (and, unfortunately, out of necessity) the loci of daycare centers; polling places; and branches of  the criminal justice system via community service sentences is, though admirable, problematic in that the most elementary and basic message of faith is obscured.  That is, the church as a forum for witnessing our acknowledgment of Grace and professing our faith that, as sinners all, we need His guidance to remind us of the attainability of eternal life.

Yes, the message of Easter is that eternal life is accessible only via the portal of death.  For those who acknowledge the Grace of God and confess the human frailty of their envies; their lusts; their prejudices and their sloth…indeed, of the inherence of sin in being human, will, in their final hour, welcome the coming of the light rather than”rage against the dying of the light”.

This light is there for us, not just on Sundays, but every day.  

It is where any individual, troubled by the lot of the world around him or her, can contemplate the burdens and pressures of everyday life and pray for the help and guidance of He who knows our shortcomings but loves us nonetheless.   Such contemplation often can help us realize that, as humans, the nature and magnitude of our sinfulness can grow exponentially via the lens of temporal societal pressure, and this growth can make the burden of these sins  too onerous to bear, too large or bulky to address, …….too cumbersome to lock away in any crate.

And to many, whose faith is insufficient to bear the strain on their back of the “crosses they bear”, there may come a time when a problem; a dilemma; or an offense they perceive as breaking the “camels’ back” can capsize what little spirit they have left.

It is to these of us that the Easter message is most important.   For, in the end, we all of us need to help each other realize and to witness that, through the Grace of Our Lord, we are not human beings having (or feigning) a ‘spiritual’ experience, but spiritual beings, who, like Jesus. in his walk up to Calvary, are struggling through a human experience…..which, with faith, will open the portal to life eternal. 

   Let us glorify His sacrifice by witnessing his message that true life for all of us, is…….yet to come.