Good Friday means the memorable day of Jesus’ ignominious death on the Cross. The mental agony and the bodily sufferings of Jesus are beyond our human imagination. Jesus being fully human and divine at the same time makes it difficult for us to grasp fully the mental agony and physical pain which Jesus endured. Remember that Jesus died much before the two thieves crucified together with him.
In this context we may recall what Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget himself, carry his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16: 24).
We know that suffering and pain accompanied Jesus from his birth. Jesus’ birth was not in a palace or a house, not even in an inn but in cattle shed! After his birth to save his life his parents have to flee to a foreign country Miser (present Egypt) carrying him in the dead of the night. They remained in exile till the death of King Herod who wanted to kill Jesus. In the public life of Jesus too his detractors did everything possible to persecute Jesus.
Do you know what Paul, who turned from a persecutor of Jesus’ followers to an ardent disciple, says? Paul as an Apostle in the forefront of proclaiming Jesus writes to Philippians: “The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to become equal to God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like man and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on the Cross” (Phil 2: 5-8).
Behind these words of Paul we can see Jesus own message to his followers. Jesus calls his disciples saying, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me” (Mk 8: 34).
Even when Jesus was hanging on the cross suffering great agony, taunting and sarcastic remarks against him continued! One of the thieves too who was crucified with Jesus taunted Jesus saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
The other thief, however, rebuked him, saying “Don’t you fear God? You received the same sentence as he did. Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong” (see Lk 23: 39-42).
When an innocent person is subjected to bodily suffering and mental torture for crimes which he/she did not commit, then that person’s sufferings are very much more than that of a criminal, who suffers for the crime he has committed. In the case of Jesus, on the Sunday before Good Friday the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus in procession carrying branches of palm-trees and shouting, “Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the King of Israel!” (Jn 12: 13). Then, seeing the triumphant entry of Jesus the detractors of Jesus were saying, “You see, we are not succeeding at all! Look, the whole world is following him!” (Jn 12: 19).
But without being tired or defeated the detractors of Jesus continued to accuse him committing a variety of crimes one after another! They put up false witnesses against Jesus and put up a show of dispensing justice and roused the crowds of people against Jesus! The devil never rests! So the people began to shout and demand, “Crucify him!” … “Crucify him!” Mathew 27: 22-23).
The day before Good Friday, that is, on Thursday “Jesus left the city and went, as he usually did, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples went with him” (Lk 22: 39). There praying on his knees the scenes of his suffering on the next day may have passed through his mind. St Luke has graphically recorded the scene saying, “Then Jesus went off from them (the disciples) about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘If you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.’ … In great anguish he prayed even more fervently; his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Lk 22: 41-44).
Thus Jesus through his Passion, Death and Resurrection gives meaning and value to our sufferings. We know that suffering in itself is evil, is not good. So we do not attract or bring sufferings upon us. But when sufferings come on our way, then we can welcome it as God’s will, as we will welcome happiness in our life. For, with sufferings we also get God’s grace to go through it. So I was not surprised when Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Sister Meena said in an interview that she sees God’s grace in the gang-rape which she suffered while even the Odisha Polices were present in the crowd. Mystical saints like St Ignatius have exhorted people to welcome happiness and sufferings with equanimity.
Jesus has said, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Mat 28: 20). So in our big and small sufferings we may recall that Jesus, who in spite of being innocent endured untold sufferings, is with us. Understanding our suffering Jesus tells us, all our sufferings will pass away and like him we will be victorious. These thoughts and understanding will help us to endure our suffering with patience and enjoy inner peace and happiness. Indeed Jesus’ death on Good Friday gives meaning and value to our sufferings.
Changed On: 16-04-2019
Next Change: 01-05-2019
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019