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Good Friday - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

JOY AMIDST SORROW

Good Friday

 

Is 52: 13 -- 53: 12/ Ps31: 2. 6. 12-13. 15-16. 17. 25/ Heb 4: 14-16; 5: 7-9/ Jn 18: 1 -- 19: 42

By *Fr. John-Okoria Ibhakewanlan, SJ

In 2013, when my sister Sandra was dying of Lupus (SLE) in far away India, my mum and I visited her there at Primus hospital in Delhi. Sandra was very devout. I expected her to be a bit bitter that God would allow her to face such a debilitating illness. She was only 27. Amazingly, we met her cheerful and full of spiritual maturity. How could she have appeared so composed while experiencing severe pain? I actually managed to ask her that question. "Sandra, how do you cope with so much suffering? I would have been angry with God?" She responded with a smile and said: "Angry? No way", and she immediately looked around her room. Then I noticed the many sacramentals and religious symbols that surrounded her. Pointing towards a crucifix, she added: "My pain is nothing, compared to this." I saw the crucifix anew.

We have become so used to the crucifix (quintessential Good Friday symbol) that we take it for granted. Good Friday becomes only a period of waiting for Easter. The truth is that, for those who did not know that Easter would come, there was nothing 'good' about that first Good Friday. In human terms, what happened on this day more than 2000 years ago was a painful, cruel and shameful, murder. In spiritual terms, we may insist that such sinless sacrifice was necessary to pay for our sin. Yet, what is the answer to the cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The pain experienced by millions of innocent people around the world today echo that cry of the crucified Lord. I believe that if Jesus came back today we would crucify him again. In fact, everyday we watch people die of poverty in the midst of plenty! Jesus comforts all these sorrowful millions by being one of them in the most radical manner. Those in pain can look up to Jesus and relate their suffering with that of the Saviour. The innocent, whose suffering stems from the injustice perpetrated by others, can pray for those who caused them pain (that is difficult). Jesus was betrayed and denied by his friends; condemned by those who knew he was innocent; crucified in place of a criminal. Hence this may well be the greatest of all the miracles that Christ performed, captured in the ultimate Good Friday words: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

What rightly makes my sister's suffering "nothing, compared to" that of Jesus is that our Lord suffered for the benefit of the very people who crucified Him. Whatever your cross may be in life, there is no greater sacrifice than this: to lay down your life for the benefit of your tormentors. Sandra was consoled by this mystery. The grace I invite us to seek, as we today behold the Crucifix, is 'to experience anew how the cruelty of the Cross is revealing to me the innermost heart of God.'

*Fr. John-Okoria Ibhakewanlan, SJ, is a the Principal at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya. 

 

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