What we do tonight is remember. As a family gathers after a death, we have come together to remember. We take turns telling stories, praying, and sitting some in silence. We find comfort in being in each other’s presence. We are a family, God’s family, and we are in mourning, sitting together, shedding some tears, talking about the one we love who has died an awful death. For a little while we go back in time and identify with those early disciples.
For one night we experience a fraction of the pain of those original disciples in thinking that Jesus was gone, gone forever. Even though Jesus had told them what was to come, on Friday they did not know it. Sunday was not to be imagined. So tonight is a time to put ourselves in their place and think as they did that Friday. What might it have been like to not know Jesus as the Risen Lord? What would it be like to not have Jesus in our life?
A critical part of our Good Friday experience is to live as witnesses of the horror and senselessness of the crucifixion. I have often wondered how could Mary, Jesus’ precious mother, have kept her vigil as her son suffered? His pain was so intense and real; how could she have remained there watching? And yet how could she not.
Tonight we remember and identify with these disciples and like them we look to find meaning in Jesus’ death.
Many of us have some understanding of seeing a loved one in pain. We have been touched by death with its accompanying sorrow, loss and often-inherent meaninglessness.
If we have not yet experienced the death of a close loved one, we know the pain of other seemingly senseless acts. The loss of a job, the exchange of angry words with a friend, the break-up of a relationship, living alone during a pandemic, are all heartbreaking events. Even if we somehow have been passed by personal tragedy, we don’t have to look very far to know the deep sadness that happens on a daily basis around us.
It is at these very times that we need the Jesus of Good Friday. Yes, I am the first to say that God in the sunrise and God in the laughter of our friends is wonderful (God in joy is wonderful!) but our God is also so very present in the darkest parts of our lives. Our God is in all places, all circumstances. He is present in our confusion, in our pain, in our abandonment and in our shattered hearts. Jesus’ struggles and death are a certain statement to us that he is with us even in our worst times.
While we may not know the ending or meaning of our struggles just as the original disciples did not know the meaning of theirs, we have the assurance that our God, our Jesus, has been there and his love will be with us always.
God has been and will be in the most awful places we find ourselves, even in the places where we are sure God is absent. That is what we can learn from Good Friday.
So tonight, listen to the words of the liturgy. Hear the stories, pray the prayers, experience the silence, maybe even shed some tears, but know that most assuredly we are not alone on this day or on any day of our lives. Jesus is always present even when we cannot feel him. There is nothing, not even death, that will separate us from him.