Whether they know the reason for it or not, our whole country stops their normal activities to acknowledge the death of Jesus. It’s quite an extraordinary thing when we contemplate in the increasingly secular world, just what takes place on Good Friday. Normal commercial activity ceases and the nation takes a breath. For those of you reading this, you hold your breath a little longer and connect the event of Good Friday to the even more extraordinary event of Christ’s resurrection. For Christians one occurrence does not make sense without the other.
I sometimes feel we do Jesus a great disservice in thinking that, as the Son of God, he must have had a greater strength and resolve to deal with his passion and death. Almost like some super powers that protected him from experiencing what you and I might have to deal with in the same circumstances. While his powers were not super, in a science fiction sense, he did posses and outstanding courage and fortitude, that was both inspiring and consoling, yet available to any who choose to follow his example.
In his seven last words, we are given an example of his total acceptance of his life and mission as God’s Son. Only in recent years have I come to see where his strength came from when he uttered the words, ”Into your hands I commend my spirit”, bringing together the great Christian quest of faith, hope and love. It was not some super strength, but the surrender to his own conviction that the God who had brought him to this point would not desert him at the moment he needed him most.
Even for Jesus, God’s Son in human flesh, death was the supreme and most radical act of faith. Jesus believed, Jesus trusted and Jesus hoped. He was confident that he would rise again, but for your own consolation remember this: Jesus’ own resurrection was not something of which he had personal experience: it was not something he could prove conclusively from sheer reason. For all that he was as Son of God, this man died as we die, not with an experience of resurrection, not with a logical argument. He died with a faith and a hope and a trust in a Father’s love for him. That was all he had and it was enough for him.
I somehow find it enormously consoling to think that as he breathed his last he was not submitting to death but was affirming life. That his spirit was not taken from him but after, a brief but outstanding earthly existence, he was entrusting himself into the hands of the Father who had sustained him thus far. Let us not wait till death to say those same seven words.
Fr Peter Dillon