“It’s way too morbid,” a family member once said to me as their reason for not going to church on
Good Friday. Whatever our motivations and feelings about this day, virtually all of us are not going
to church this year.
If morbidity were the main thrust of our Good Friday services, it would be understandable that if
our churches were still open this year, fewer would be wanting to attend. Too much extra pain and
sufferering in ordinary life; no need for more in church.
It is true that there is an especial focus on the details of the suffering and death of Jesus on this day.
For centuries the Church has ascribed the words of the prophet Jeremiah to Christ on the Cross: O
all you who pass by, pay attention and see: if there be any sorrow like my sorrow. (Lam. 1:12). In
fact, the prophets, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, seem to dwell even more on the
Passion than those who were actually present or knew people who were! The writer of Psalm 22, for
example, has the details of the evangelists: They tear holes in my hands and feet...they divide my
clothing among them (vv 17, 19), but goes further: Like water I am poured out, disjointed are all my
bones. My heart has become like wax, it is melted within my breast (v. 15).
Jesus Himself historically welcomed this meditation and reflection on His suffering but steered its
motivation. Pausing on the road to Calvary, he tells the women of Jerusalem to weep not for me, but
for yourselves and for your children (Lk 23:28). The Lord did not tell them not to cry, not to be
moved by His suffering, but nevertheless to see the purpose of this suffering. Surely he has borne
our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted (Is.
53:4). He takes our suffering upon Himself, draws the poison out of us and into Him, in as much as
we look at Him, trust Him, dedicate ourselves to Him.
Pondering upon the Passion today is not to be morbid; neither is it hopelessly wallowing in the guilt
of our sins. It is an invitation to recall the limitless extent of God’s love for us. Love of us caused
God to rend the heavens and come down amongst us in the flesh (Is. 64:1) so that He, when lifted
up from the earth, will draw all men to Himself (Jn 12:32). Good Friday is a time to remind
ourselves that God loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3); He loves us to the end (Jn 13:1).
So, if the churches had been open today, I believe that more people than usual would have come.
Even in the darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour (Cf Mat. 27:45) of that first Good Friday,
when all appeared to be over, it was God, Holy and Mighty, the Holy and Immortal One (Good
Friday Reproaches/Improperia) who turned the darkness into Resurrection light. In this troubling
time our Saviour assures that we will win through, that victory will be ours. In the world you have
tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33).