What is there to say on Good Friday? What can be said in the face of violence? One might imagine that the front pages of our newspapers have prepared us with the right response each time violence and tragedy cross our paths. With stories detailing school shootings and suicide bombs, we see the destruction and pain that people are capable of – and yet, we are so often able to distance ourselves from the awful scene, with clichés or stereotypes or simple geography. At the cross of Christ, however, there are no simple sayings that can separate us from the grief of this death. Words seem to fail us. Perhaps, because we find ourselves to be like Peter, at a loss for words because we know too well how terrible our words can be. Or, perhaps, like Mary and the beloved disciple, we stand silent out of sorrow and grief, knowing that all our words could not have changed this ending.
The silence of Good Friday makes us uncomfortable because it asks us to face darkness and recognize it in ourselves. We can no longer pretend that we are above the hurts of the world. Here, on Good Friday, our brokenness is revealed in all its ugliness, brokenness suppressed for so long that it can only be released in violence and used for our own conviction. God becomes Incarnate that we might be reconciled, and we crucify Him! But here, also, is the salvation: God knows our faults, but God can work through our weakness, our mistakes – even through our treason and betrayal, even through our arrogant attempts to kill God. God will transform our brokenness and violence into Resurrection.
The love of God is stronger than the powers of the world, and can work in our lives despite our best (or worst) intentions otherwise – and will go even to the cross to show us the love.
I wish that Jesus had filled the silence with more words. I wish that he had been able to proclaim the new commandment of love once again. There is a Spanish poem that captures what I wish Jesus might have said:
Yo no nací sino para quereros;
mi alma os ha cortado a su medida;
por hábito del alma mismo os quiero.
Cuanto tengo confieso yo deberos;
por vos nací, por vos tengo la vida,
por vos he de morir, y por vos muero.
I was not born but to love thee
my soul is patterned to thy measures
and because of my soul’s habit I do love thee
I confess to owe thee all I have
for thee I was born, for thee I am alive
for thee I have to die, and for thee I die.
Jesus knows that humanity is a community of broken lives. We all have hurts we have received, pain we have caused, and grief we have lived with. By coming to live as one of us, Jesus has patterned his soul to our measure. As one who lived among us, he knew what it was to see hunger and disease, to feel loss and grief.
As one betrayed and crucified, Jesus knows the depths of what we are capable of, and yet, it is the habit of Christ’s very being to love us, live for us, and even die for us: because God knows that the consequence of giving one’s life to love is to eventually give one’s death as well.
So what can we say in the face of such committed love? We are, again left at the foot of the cross without words, but not without hope or action. We are here together, grieving over the losses of life, and the failings of our stories. We stand, looking for glimpses of hope and sharing words of comfort. We stand at the cross of Christ waiting and watching for God to act once again and make creation new – bound to one another by the love that led Jesus here.