The heaviness of Good Friday invites all people to reject escapism and recognize the brutality of the world. And the hope of overcoming it.
Today, over one billion self-identified Christians observe the sober holiday of Good Friday. According to tradition, this is the day Jesus was crucified and buried.
I’ve been to a handful of Good Friday services over the years. They vary in ritual, but all share one common trait: heaviness.
That is fitting. The death of a beloved rabbi, teacher, healer, at the brutal hands of one of history’s nastiest empires. Christians are invited – commanded, even – to dwell on the loss, the sorrow, the anguish.
That is the Passion of the Christ, in fact. The stations of the cross. The suffering.
When I was younger, watching reenactments of the crucifixion were too gruesome. I covered my eyes.
And I still do. The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s deep delve into the hideous torture of Jesus’ death, was enough to produce nightmares.
It’s led me to ask: Is this the right way to observe Christianity’s pinnacle weekend?
And yet, and yet. I went to bed last night with #PrayForNigeria trending on Twitter.
Pray for Nigeria because yesterday, the terrorist group Boko Haram burned 86 Nigerians alive, including many children.
The world continues on in its sick, brutal fashion. That seems one truth that refuses to change, year in, year out, millennia after millennia.
We celebrate Good Friday, here in the United States, in peace, at no imminent risk.
Which is why so many Christians will not observe it, not really, not much, not at all.
But I think it is an opportunity to recognize the horrors we are capable of – all of us. The horrors we inflict upon each other.
There is the risk, in American society in particular, to escape the realities of the world. Our technology makes it almost impossible not to. You can turn the channel, swipe the screen. You can tune out the suffering, and focus on frivolity.
But I don’t want to do that.
I, for one, am thankful for Good Friday, and the opportunity it brings to remember the truth about the world. That we can be lulled into a false sense of security and ease notwithstanding, there are issues of life and death here.
And the issue of the soul, the possibility of a time-immune legacy for us, to us, for our actions, to our beliefs and our daily lives. All those little things, compiled, built up.
Jesus begged God to forgive his murderers, for “they know not what they do.” What a divine statement.
After the anguish, victory. After the brutality, still love.
That is the ultimate message of Good Friday.
Photo: Flickr/Greg Westfall