Good Friday 2015: Hour of Glory
When Jesus had his last supper with his disciples and friends he gave them an example of servanthood by washing their feet, then before going out to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, he gave them a single command: love one another as I have loved you.
Departing from the group, Jesus said “Now the Son of Man has been gloried and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, where I am going you cannot come. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
Today we take in the full measure of his love.
The power of evil has done its worst but Jesus according to John lays down his life of his own free will. He suffers and accepts the companionship of the few gathered beneath the cross.
Looking at his mother Mary, he says, woman, behold your son, making arrangement for her to be cared for by the beloved disciple. Mary, his mother has demonstrated great love of God and of her son: she has emptied herself accepting the will of God….let it be to me according to your word. Her life is one of surrender from the time of the conception of Jesus, when he stayed behind to discuss theology with the high priest at the age of 12 leaving Mary and Joseph and the rest of the family in panic at his absence. When at the wedding in Cana, she told the steward, do whatever he tells you. During his earthly ministry, one of the gospel writers tell us Jesus had nowhere to rest his head. It is also true that during his life, Mary had nowhere to rest her heart.
Surely Mary was at the Last Supper, observing the pledges of loyalty by those who later betrayed or denied her son. She remembers his command to love one another and perhaps this is why she is willing to accept his assignment to go with the beloved disciple. Mary’s son has been arrested, beaten, and is dying in front of her and yet she endures, persists in being present, gazing into his eyes, to give to him all she has, her life if necessary because it is not a safe thing to be too devoted to those the state consider criminals. Mary has been on call 24x7 all his life and her commitment remains: be it to me according to your will. Being available means letting God have control even if it means a cross.
What must Mary feel looking on as her son dies in front of her? There is nothing she can do to reduce his suffering but to be present. She can be there for him with the only gift she has: herself. So here she stands, tears streaming down her face, sorrow in her bones, weak with fatigue leaning on her friends. Being there reminds me that we begin to grieve before the one we love is dead, from the time of the diagnosis, when the news finally penetrates our denying minds. We hold on. We encourage the dying one to fight, to persist, to suffer one more treatment, because we don’t want to let go. We grieve for the things that might have been and will not be. We grieve for time future when the beloved will no longer be here in this physical plane of being. It is hard to let go and herein Mary is an excellent mentor: she knows how to let go and trust God: be it to me according to your word.
Surely for those few at the foot of the cross, it may feel like the end of everything that ever mattered to them. Their grief is palpable. The sky is dark as it should be. It is a dark hour, but the great mystics who have experienced God know also the moment of darkness, they call the dark night of the soul. For John’s gospel the cross is the bridge from the first Passover out of Egypt to the new Passover into glory.
The early churches of Asia Minor celebrated Easter on the day we call Good Friday, because it is his hour of glory. The resurrection would ratify and reinforce what was displayed on the cross. Only if we equate glory with love, profound self-giving kenotic love can we begin to understand. It is the moment of self-transcendence to the other.
Only then can we understand 1 Jn: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” “So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.”
The presence of Mary, the beloved disciple, Mary Magdalene, at the foot of the cross invite us to come closer today, to let the story of suffering love that is a gift given to us and to all. We dare not consign this story to history somewhere far away. We need to see ourselves at the foot of the cross, we need to join Mary and gaze into his face, where we will not find judgment or condemnation but love beyond words. We must let that gift of self count by letting it take root deep in our consciousness, giving birth in us to awareness that we too are the beloved, entrusted with those Jesus loves.
We need to hear our Lord say: It is finished, done, consummated, fulfilled, brought to perfection. It is done/ over/ finished. It is a life brought to completion. A new way has been charted through the wilderness of human suffering. We see the cruelty and power of Rome, but they do not win. Love wins. On the hard wood of the cross, arms open, Jesus makes even this instrument of persecution a symbol of hope. Love has more power than hate. Those huddled together in community at the bottom of the cross see through their tears they may remember him saying, “greater love have no man than that he lay down his life for his friends.”
For this I came into the world to testify to the truth. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. It is not over, it is finished. Here at the cross, we can come home, to the truth about ourselves, the truth about God’s mercy and forgiveness and reconciling love.
In seeing the victory of love, the redemptive plan of God, as we huddle together on this pain filled day of re-membrance, we can endure, even experience a love so profound that we can call this day good. It is accomplished: love meets us where we are and opens the way of grace.
It is his hour of glory and everyone is invited to join in God’s act of redemption, the reluctant, the guilty, the late, those who were faithful all the way through, like Mary. John gives us assurance that out of darkness light will shine. Love itself is given for us. There is nothing we can add to what God has done for us, but we can respond.