either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10
The Passion story, as solemn as it is, is still the Gospel, still good news for us, in any season or time of the year. This day we read John’s (18: 1-19:42) long Passion narrative. John records that while Jesus is the one captured, tried and crucified, it is the major players in the story who fall apart. Meanwhile, those who lack power, the minor players in the drama, are the faithful ones. They are the ones who keep company with Jesus at the foot of the cross.
This Good Friday we reflect on the seeming powerlessness of ones who keep vigil. There was nothing any of Jesus’ faithful followers could do. But they do not leave this dying and tortured man. They stay by him till the end. For those of us who want to be a success, find solutions for difficult situations, the ones standing at the cross are wasting their time in a lost cause. To those who measure their lives by achievement and successful waiting is frustrating? The cause is lost, they can’t save him. We are reminded at the cross, that ultimately we can’t save ourselves from the real “challenge” to our life that is sin and death. The One who can save us is there in defeat, united to all the world’s innocent victims. The watchers at the foot of the cross must have been a comfort to Jesus. Rather than bear the stares of the indifferent or hateful onlookers, he could look upon those near him. He is aware of them and as the dying often do, he expresses concern for the ones he is leaving behind. I believe these watchers were God-sent for him?
So we honor today those who keep vigil with the dying; spouses and families of those dying of cancer; night nurses who just sit with a dying patient; hospice visitors to the homes of terminally sick people; family, friends and strangers outside execution chambers; clergy and church volunteers who bring the sacraments to the sick; parents of dying children; third world parents who watch their little ones waste away from malnutrition and inadequate health care. Each of these watchers who keep vigil are God-sent. God stood at the foot of the cross that day in those faithful ones. When one comes into the room to sit with a dying person, God enters too reach out, to hold the hand of the afflicted; to sooth their brow; to offer a sip of water; to adjusts a pillow; to call the nurse when the needed; or to give spiritual comfort or communion. In the face of death because of Christ's death we face death with hope and not fear.
The ancient brutal form of capital punishment has become the central symbol of our faith, and paradoxically, a symbol of hope. Now, the cross, or crucifix, takes different shapes and forms in Christian religious art. I possess a number of crosses of different shapes and sizes. But, I frequently feel a small cross in my pocket on my rosary; sometimes it gives me strength to just hold that little cross. Many of us probably have crosses in our homes, or cars of different shapes and sizes. Some of us deal with chronic illnesses or pain. Some are dealing with disappointment and rejection. Many of us are dealing with grief from different kinds of losses. Many people suffer emotionally from anxiety, stress, worry, depression or have financial concerns. Some of us are un-or under-employed. For some, aging is a difficult and painful experience. For some, there is the pain of relationships failing and others have been seriously harmed by addictions of some kind. We all know the pain and vulnerability in being human. These issues might not be as violent or bloody as Christ's crucifixion, but they are nonetheless share in the mystery of his cross. Good Friday calls us to take on Jesus' approach to the cross. Whenever and however the cross (pain or suffering) enters our lives, we who are united to Christ are to embrace it, and carry it. Sometimes we will need to be humble enough to ask for help in carrying our crosses and when we see other people struggling with their, we should try to help them. At the cross pain is given meaning, despair is vanquished by hope and love makes the burden bearable. In the letter to the Hebrews we read; "Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame." (12:2) May our faith give us this faith-vision as we wait in joyful hope for the future coming of our brother and saviour Jesus the Christ