The Sweet Words: But the Sweetest Deed – A Good Friday Reflection

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“You are not one of his disciples, are you?”

“What is truth?”

“We have no king but Caesar!”

In these three phrases – two questions and an exclamation – the entire drama of Good Friday unfolds.

The disciples run.

The religious leaders betray one of their own.

The state collapses under pressure.

And then Jesus is on the cross. Jesus, the Christ, the alleged fulfillment of all God’s promises – is hung on the cross.

Yet, we call this day “good.” We call it Good Friday.

We don’t call it good because Jesus’ disciples, the religious leaders, and the state all showed themselves to be powerless to stand up against their dark sides.

We don’t call it good because Jesus was hung on the cross and mocked. We don’t call it good because an innocent man was put to death.

Rather, we call this day good because it is on this day because two extraordinary things happened:

(1) Jesus, on the cross, reached out – stretching his arms out as far as they could go, moving beyond the nails in his hands to pull the entire story of what God is up to in the world to a stunning climax: his arms reached out to the ends of the earth, pulling in the just and unjust, the wicked and the kind, the jealous and the content, the sinners and saints.

This posture, this motion, describes what God does when seeing the world in its broken and battered state; it depicts how God reacts to the suffering in our community and to the suffering in our lives. Arms wide open, suffering with us.

(2) Perhaps equally extraordinary to the wide-open arms of the Crucified Christ is what happens after Jesus dies. Pierced by a lance, blood and water flow from his side.

And this, my brothers and sisters: is the greatest gift we can receive – the water and the blood.

The water of baptism – wherein we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.

And the Blood – the Blood of Christ – his very life force, which we receive time and time again in the Eucharist.

In baptism, we are not only baptized into the death of Christ – but the newness of life that he shares with each one of us.

And then, in the Eucharist, we are constantly reminded and strengthened through this pouring out of the very essence of God into our hearts and souls so that we may more clearly witness to the same love that Christ showed each of us on the cross.

Saint Augustine once wrote: “Love is a sweet word, but a sweeter deed.”

Today is Good Friday – the words of disciples, leaders, and the state failed: but the deed of love prevailed.

It is a good day.

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