It would seem if we were just to consider the events which we commemorate on “Good Friday” that there seems to be nothing good about it at all. But while that may be true, we as Christians celebrate Good Friday as the events which led ultimately to our salvation. Christianity (and Christians for that matter) seems absurd to many because it seems to try to make sense out of suffering, for which nothing can really and truly make any sense of it. I read an article recently criticizing Christians for our theology on suffering because we are just trying to apply our stories to make us feel better about what we might have to endure. What sense does suffering without any faith make? Is it somehow more realistic to just accept suffering for what it is worth? But “Good” Friday is not merely about suffering – but the events that took place in Jerusalem could have been avoided; completely avoided from a human point of view.
The political and religious climate was volatile (as the Gospel readings highlight) and while we see the pride and arrogance in the leadership both civil and religious; the Crucifixion of someone as popular as Jesus would have been avoided. But that point is moot, because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, professed and prophised the manner in which He would die and rise again and made no attempt to avoid what we commemorate. None. So Jesus’ actions were for something greater than we can comprehend and that is what is good.
Jesus configured His Will to the Father’s Will and saved everyone who believed (and would come to believe) in Him. He prayed to the Father to ‘take this cup from Him, but if it is Your Will, may I do Your Will, Father”. None of us should want to suffer, none of us should want to die: if we do that’s strange. We cannot be controlled by our fears as Christians – that’s the difference we are blessed with. Jesus, even knowing the redemption that His Divine- human act would bring about, had asked for another way, but embraced the Father’s Will and knew that what He would do was greater than what He would suffer.
What is good about Good Friday is in the saving action that Jesus brought about by His own free will action on this day. He didn’t have to die for us, but chose to take this on so that the saving plan would come to be. He taught us about the ultimate price for love, and that when we love someone we do what is best for them. He knew what would save believers – and He did it! Good Friday and anything we celebrate as Catholic Christians commemorating the Way of the Cross is not meant to be a “theology of suffering” and to believe that would be to parse out the goodness of it all. Jesus loved us with a love that is greater than we humanly experience and chose to suffer and die for the ones He intimately loved and each and every person who chose and would choose to accept that relationship. That is truly good. Suffering and death does not and will not make total sense to us, but both are and can be experiences and events that bring us close and deeper into communion with God. Just ask any hospital chaplain. And until Jesus comes again, there is only one way to heaven; and that’s through death. I don’t know about you, but that really is what I hope I’m destined for.