Good Friday is the one day of the year that there is no Mass. The tabernacle is empty. There is no Jesus.
Good Friday is the day of the Passion – the suffering and Death of Jesus on the Cross.
There are many years that Good Friday prompts us to dig deep and examine our own sinfulness. For it was sin, selfishness, self-righteousness, greed, and pride that brought Jesus to the Cross.
But that’s not where we are this year.
This year we are suffering. We are grieving. We are physically isolated from community.
Many are sick. Many are unemployed. Many are overworked. Many are mourning.
So many disappointments. So many heartaches. So much lost.
This is the year we need to look to the Cross and know that we are not alone in our suffering.
This is the year we need to hear Jesus Christ, the Son of God, give us permission to cry out, “My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me!”
Although Jesus wasn’t ever actually abandoned by God (nor are we), in the depths of human suffering, it can sometimes feel like it.
Jesus was praying with Scripture. Psalm 22 laments pain and frustration with tremendous detail… and it then shifts. Around verse 21, the Psalmist begins to praise God’s Glory with confidence. We, like Jesus, can lament to God with vivid description and still be People of Faith.
Unable to gather as a community, unable to receive the gift of God’s grace in the Sacraments, unable to pray together as the Body of Christ in our Churches… it does feels very alone.
The tabernacle is empty. The Church is empty. This is our very uncomfortable reality, feeling the longing and loss on Good Friday.
If this – the suffering, longing, and loss of Good Friday – is where you are, know that you are not alone… nor are you weak in your faith. Look to the Cross and know that you are not alone.
The essence of our faith is trusting in the knowledge that the suffering and Death of Good Friday is not the end of the story. But it is where we are right now… at least for today.
Post-Script: A Neighborhood Stations of the Cross
On the morning this reflection was posted, inspired by an idea posted on the Guadalupe Radio Network‘s Houston Facebook Group, my friend and neighbor Coleen asked for help replicating a North Houston neighborhood’s Stations of the Cross. This beautiful idea would allow people to walk/bike/drive the 14 Stations and maintain social distancing while journeying in prayer. Propelled by the grace of the Holy Spirit, our neighborhood Stations in Nassau Bay came together quickly and easily.
Following the directions given by a member of the North Houston’s neighborhood group Prestonwood Prays, around 8am Coleen set out to purchase supplies. At 9am she asked me to gather, print, and laminate the images of the Stations, and then called upon Brooke to coordinate the locations into a coherent path. Together, we quickly found 14 homeowners willing host the sign-post at the edge of their property, and Brooke mapped and organized the locations to form a walkable 3.25 mile loop. Since I had recently put together a simple, Scripture-based, Traditional Stations of the Cross for use on a retreat, I integrated those passages, along with the address of the next Station, onto a second laminated page to be attached to each sign. We announced the opportunity on FaceBook and text, and provided the links to a printable Worship Aid and Map of Locations. Everything was installed and folks were making their pilgrimages by 2pm. After sundown on Good Friday, the Stations were removed and disassembled. We received such an outpour of gratitude from prayerful pilgrims that we will do our best to continue this tradition in the years to come!
Here’s the basic instructions and supplies needed to construct these neighborhood Stations.
The tabernacle at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church was designed with doors that open to the sanctuary on one side, and the stained glass image of the Last Supper on the other. With gratitude to Mark Evangelista for the photo of the empty tabernacle opening to the hand of Christ offering the bread, and Miriam Escobar for the photo open to the empty sanctuary.