Today is Holy Saturday, it is a day of mourning. And although we have so much to mourn, we tend to brush Holy Saturday aside. We busy ourselves with preparations for tomorrow and we forget to grieve. Today is the day when we have to begin to come to terms with the loss of the most important person in our lives. We are bereft. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows the pain and sorrow of this day. We know it will take a long time for the pain to fade, perhaps even the rest of our lives. But while today is a very sad day, if we believe the gospel story, we know that our sadness will be temporary, we do have hope. But we cannot rush into Easter. Today we have to live in the grief. And for my friends who are grieving their own loss today, know that your grief is holy, it is a sign of your capacity for love. Easter will come in its time and you will have cause to rejoice again. For today, just know that you are not alone.
We’ve created a world that both glorifies violence and has become immune to it. Violent movies and games some of our most popular entertainment but when we want to whitewash it, we speak of sacrifice or collateral damage.
In the Episcopal Church our baptismal covenant requires us to seek and serve Christ in all persons. If we believe this, if we believe that we see the face of Christ in others, we must recognize that whatever we do to the least of these, we do to Jesus. Ours has become a world where every day is Good Friday. Every day is an opportunity to crucify Jesus.
Just in our recent memory, we crucified Jesus in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 and in Texas on June 7, 1998. We crucified him in Wyoming on October 12, 1998 and in New York on September 11, 2001. We saw him crucified in Tucson on January 8, 2011 and in Aurora on July 20, 2012. We crucified him in Newtown on December 14, 2012, and in Boston on April 15, 2013. The list goes on and on, and these are just a few of the more well known incidences.
Every day we crucify Jesus for something we believe in or something we refuse to support – racism, homophobia, sexism, gun rights, jihad, access to mental health care, etc. I’ve had enough, I’m tired of Good Friday. It’s time we stop sacrificing our brothers and sisters, our children, our friends, and even our enemies.
For me, it’s time to remember the real message of Good Friday. It isn’t the horror and the violence, it isn’t anything that was done to Jesus against his will, or that his life was taken by evil humanity. The real message in Good Friday is love. It is what Jesus taught by his example, that “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
If we truly believe in the Easter story, we should be calling ourselves to put an end to the crucifixions, an end to the sacrifices. We are called to love so much that we would willingly lay down our lives for our friends. And who are our friends? The foreigners, the strangers, the undesirables, those despised by others (Luke 10:29-37). Every time a woman is gang raped in India, we have crucified Jesus again. Every time a gay man is imprisoned or executed in Nigeria, we have crucified Jesus again. Every time a woman is beaten by her spouse, we crucify him. Every time a young black man is shot in Trenton, we have crucified Jesus again. Every time a child is caught in the crossfire and considered collateral damage, we crucify him.
If we are to truly honor Good Friday, If we think Jesus’ self-sacrifice was to be the final sacrifice, if we want Good Friday to truly bring redemption to all, we must put an end to the Good Fridays that continue to be suffered by countless people around the world. We must be willing to lay down our lives for our friends.
On Maundy Thursday we celebrate the last supper and reenact Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples. It reminds us of our call to be servants to each other, to share in community with the breaking of bread together, to offer our bodies and blood for the sake of others. While it’s always harder to think of these things in relation to “the least of these,” whether they be those with whom we disagree or those we don’t particularly like, it can still be enlightening to think of how much we would willingly do this for those we love. And that reminds us that God truly loves us all and that Jesus willingly did this for all of us whom he loved. For me, there is an extra special blessedness about this day because it reminds us of that love in a way that is so tangible in our own lives today – it is a time to seek and serve Christ in all persons. It is a day that truly celebrates the incarnation of God, serving our physical needs of touch, of feeding others and being fed. It is a not a day to glorify the betrayal and violence (that we face tomorrow), but rather a day in which we can feel and taste and see the love of Christ in this world now. We can help to heal the world with a word, a touch, an unspoken prayer. Although we are not yet looking to the future resurrection, in this moment we know the blessings of serving each other, breaking bread together and sharing our bodies and blood for each other. And still, because we do have the hope of resurrection, we can also know that those we have loved and touched and held so dear have also worked to heal our world – they have washed our feet, broken bread with us and shared their bodies and blood for our sake.