Mourning Good Friday and the loss of a loved one
I always found it unusual to refer to this day in the Christian calendar as "Good Friday."
It is the day that marks the death of Jesus Christ, nearly two thousand years ago. I always found it ironic to call a day of death and suffering good. How can it be good?
Being fortunate enough to never work on the holiday, I have been privileged enough to take the time to reflect each year as it comes. It has always been something of a sad day for me. My heart takes to mourning - contemplating death and it's inevitability for all of us. I also wrestle with the difficult reality that the road to death is marked with much love, but also much suffering. Often our lives are not happy endings, but tragedies.
Today I attended the funeral of Rian-Anne Rose Jarrett-Hauser. I didn't know her personally but she was the granddaughter of two dear friends of mine, Shelley and Robb. The service was lovely. A full room of those who loved this girl and miss her a lot. At only 23, Rian was taken from this world, leaving those who loved her with sadness and confusion. Pastor Bradley C.B. led a great service; some words that stuck out for me were, (and I'll have to paraphrase): "Perhaps we can take solace in knowing that her struggles are over."
Rian struggled as so many of us do. She had health issues - being diagnosed with diabetes at a young age she struggled with taking care of herself, and pride pushed her away from many who loved her. She spent time on the streets, at Anita Place homeless camp, and the Rain City shelter when it was open, as well as modular housing. Her case worker and a paramedic spoke amongst friends and family - all mourned the passing of a loving soul who suffered much. Her big heart obviously touched many in our community, and it is clear she will be missed.
This is the story of Good Friday.
In the spring of A.D. 30, on Friday morning, Jesus was arrested, tortured, then nailed to a cross where he died. His continuous critique of his peoples corrupted ways rustled feathers. He journeyed throughout Judea (modern day Israel), teaching and healing. He brought a message of hope and love to the marginalized and outcast, peace and forgiveness to the frustrated citizens under roman occupation, and intense criticism to the religious authorities.
Jesus constantly called out the religious corruption, which led to his execution. Under the charge of blaspheme, by both the Jewish priests and the roman governor of Judea, he carried his cross through Jerusalem and was crucified on Golgatha (known as, "The skull"). As he hung on the cross, only a handful of his followers attended and grieved his passing. Others fled for fear of association, some denied and even betrayed him, and his mother watched from below as her son's spirit left its body. A tragic end to the good-spirited man.
Crucifixion was a brutal form of ancient roman execution. In the heat of the middle-east, a person would be tied and nailed to a tree, where they would we exposed to the elements - death came by the sun, dry air, and ravenous animals - often taking days to claim its victims through excruciating pain. Pontius Pilot, the Roman Governor of Judea, was known in history for executing many Jews by this method. Some stories state that he would crucify hundreds at a time, often leaving them up for days so those under his occupation would think twice about revolt.
In the face of this, Jesus had many opportunity to evade such a disturbing fate. He was urged to denounce his beliefs, to take back his blasphemous claims of kingship, and to worship Caeser as his god. Instead of speaking against what he knew to be true, running away or fighting back Jesus accepted his fate and endured the suffering and death he didn't deserve, in order to set us free from spiritual bondage and to fulfill the life of self sacrifice he claimed and preached to so many.
put on that book,
was nailed to a tree,
and published his father's edict to the cross.
Oh, what a great teaching!
He humbled himself even unto death."
- The Gospel of Truth by Valentinus.
When contemplating love it is hard to discount sacrifice. It is easy for us to say we love someone, but actions speak louder than words. From the Gospel of John, chapter 15 verse 13, Jesus said: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."
Sacrifice reveals Love in it's true form, not as a selfish emotion but an embodied state of action. To give of yourself freely for the betterment of others is not innate. Aside from caring for infants, our natural focus is on ourselves, and rarely are we willing to give up even a part of ourselves for others, let alone our whole life.
The cross represents this great love.
In spite of being tortured and mocked Jesus uttered these words as he endured his death: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."
If you have not read the story of Jesus, I urge you to do so. The story of this figure transcends religion and culture, tongues and creeds - His philosophy is rich and his courage inspiring. A life modeled by love and forgiveness, truth and integrity, instead of resentment and hostility. To pick up your cross and to move forward, in spite of this world full of suffering and death, is the right mode of being. If we live a life of love, and stay true to it, we can face our inevitable death without regrets, embraced by those who gained so much from our love, and who will continue the legacy in their lives to come.
It is never easy to see loved-ones pass away. Whether early or late in life, when a loved one is no-longer with us we are left with a painful void they once held in our hearts. But if we remember the good times shared, and keep them in our hearts and minds, their impact will echo, and their love will never be forgotten. In spite of our suffering, we shoulder our cross and continue forward courageously.
From one of my favorite songs: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of." I can't agree more.
Have a lovely Easter and enjoy your weekend.