I remember some years ago, on Good Friday, taking a walk through the park with a Jewish friend of mine and she asked me, "Why do you call it "Good" Friday, when what happened on that day was basically torture and execution?" I don't remember exactly what I said then but it was something like this: Jesus preached a radical message of reconciliation. (Martin Luther King called him, admiringly, an "extremist"). He claimed to be speaking for God's way, calling people back to be God's people, holding God's dream. This, he preached, is the true Way. It sounded like blasphemy to some. And indeed, we've seen throughout history that anyone who preaches peace with that kind of authority will be a threat to those who are in power. (Jesus himself pointed to the way the people of Israel had treated their prophets in the past. And one of the lessons we read today is from Isaiah 53-4: the story of Israel as "suffering servant," for the sake of the world -- a passage which Christians have learned to read as a way of understanding who Jesus was). He was killed by a collaboration of the religious and the political authorities of his time. He was too much of a threat.
We tell the story of Good Friday because we know how it comes out. Without the Resurrection two days later, it is just another story of human cruelty and abuse of state power -- all too familiar in our own time as it was in its time. Christians call it "Good" Friday because the Cross and the Easter story are all one story: (Jesus says this in his first prediction of his suffering - but his listeners don't can't understand). the Cross is the WAY that God desires to redeem us, despite everything. In the whole story of Cross and resurrection, this action of God's unrelenting love is made manifest. It is hard to interpret or summarize, but the story itself tells us something about the Way. The Cross is the means of grace -- it is the result of the Call of Christ on each of our lives, though it may take different forms for each of us in our lives. And the Resurrection tells us that however controversial Jesus' message was, you can't kill it. This is the heart of the story of God's persistent and unrelenting desire to call us home and make us whole, whatever the cost. We're invited to participate in that desire by reaching out to the world in love. But on Good Friday we pause, silenced and awestruck by the mystery of Love that is expressed in the Cross. It is a day of devotion, hard to explain. But that's the closest I got, walking with my friend in the park, to explaining why we call this Friday "Good."
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.