Good Friday

The Passion can seem so far away. 

Advertisement

Despite the fact that many of us will listen very carefully to the story of the Passion today, the events that happened in 1st-century Palestine can seem unimaginably distant.  When I was growing up in suburban Philadelphia, it seemed not participatory but in fact slightly risible when the parishioners at my hometown church would say, “Crucify him!”  Or rather, the unexclamated, “Crucify him...”  For one thing, no one there felt like crucifying Jesus.  For another, we were sitting in a comfortable climate-controlled church listening to a sedate retelling of the Passion, not baying for someone’s blood in a hot dusty square in Jerusalem.  We believed that Jesus suffered, died and rose from the dead, but that was a long time ago.

Yet every day we are called to reenact that Passion--by dying to self.  We are called to let go of, to relinquish, to let die, anything that keep us from greater freedom to follow Jesus.  And by dying to our self we, paradoxically, experience new life. 

So on this Good Friday it is important to ask ourselves: “What is keeping you from more closely following Jesus?”  What needs to die so that God can give you new life?  For me it’s the need to be liked and admired by all.  That has to die, so that I might be more able to follow Christ.  I’ve been praying for God’s help lately, in letting that part of me die.

That’s why this “Christ in Gethsemane” painting by Heinrich Hofmann has always been a favorite.  Mocked (and I use that word intentionally) by art critics as kitschy or banal, it shows Jesus at the moment when he gives up everything to God the Father—especially all his hopes for his life’s great project, which seems to be at an end.  Into his hands he commends his spirit.  And I believe—though I may be wrong—that while Jesus freely accepted the future that God had in store, he may not have known exactly what kind of new life God would give him.

At Gethsemane, Jesus’s experiences directly intersect with our own “dyings to self.”  For neither do we know, when we die to self, exactly what God will do.  But we hope.   As Jesus did.

James Martin, SJ

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years 6 months ago
If a person is having a dying-to-self conversation then their lives are blessed (or cursed) with comfort. Many do not have to simulate the psychic crushing that you describe - as they have been cursed or graced with adverse cirumstances in the form of disease, loss or mastery by sin. God, by nature, had no experience of this state of suffering, which is why we have Good Friday and the sacrifice of the Cross. It allowed God to take the form of a man and experience the psychic crushing that is all too common to the human condition. In other words, for many following Jesus is not the issue, but recognizing that he followed us. That is the true gift of Good Friday.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Father Michael Nixon and parishioner work a volunteer table at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Panama City, Fla. Photo by Atena Sherry.
Much like New Orleans’ Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina, the low-income neighborhoods east of Panama City, where St. Dominic is located, were especially hard-hit by the storm. Now residents here are desperate for help.
Atena SherryOctober 18, 2018
“I believe there are adequate, alternative options for true women’s health care out there, and Planned Parenthood is not needed,” said Alisha Fox, a health and wellness coach at a Catholic fertility center in Chicago.
Colleen ZeweOctober 18, 2018
 Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa checks out the name badge of Nathanael Lamataki, a youth delegate from the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, as they leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Souraphiel highlighted the role globalization plays in connecting young people in unjust ways.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 18, 2018
The pope said he would visit North Korea “if an official invitation arrives.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 18, 2018