Lent 2023: Good Friday

How many of our neighbours or colleagues have any idea of what we are doing these days?

Now he showed how perfect his love was

Jn 13:1-15I

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How many of our neighbours or colleagues have any idea of what we are doing these days? What if they were to ask us and we said something like ‘well, Jesus was a wonderful human being. He was killed for being so good and after three days he came back to life and that’s what were celebrating. Please come and join us. It’s lovely.’

We could get more intellectual and say, ‘philosophers say that God is dead. Well, that’s undeniably true if by God you mean the idea of God that the institutional church enshrined in cultural Christendom for centuries. Dualistic, punitive and definitely male. But actually, the death of Jesus already marks the death of that millennia-old image of God.’ When Jesus says, ‘My God, my God why have you abandoned me?’ he surrenders that God to the (non-gender specific) God he calls abba, the one he asks to forgive those who were killing him. The living God who is non-dualistic and who pours love on good and bad alike. In learning who God was for Jesus, we have already said goodbye to the old and moved into a new age.

But there is even more to Good Friday than that. The paternalistic, hierarchical God has been deposed, even though his after-life is very resilient and there’s always a campaign afoot to restore him to his throne. With the death of this God, however, a quite different understanding of God was let out of the closet especially by the mystics. So Good Friday itself signals the death of the old idea of God and the revelation of one so entwined with the human being that in the body of Jesus (S)He was able to die physically.

The Cross is not a revenge tragedy, paying back to God what humanity owes for sin. It is humanity reluctantly having its feet washed and being told that the union of God and the human is now accomplished. It has lifted human potential beyond its own boundaries. The change is more than anything that AI or genetic modification can dream of. In these reflections I have often spoken of the ‘union of opposites’. The Cross is the great teaching of paradox and union: the cruelty and inhumanity it demonstrates indicts human beings, not God. Yet it is an equally powerful revelation of cosmic tenderness, divine forgiveness and the embrace of the other we falsely imagine to be an enemy.

In the sacred theatre of the Triduum at Bonnevaux, at three this afternoon, we will venerate the Cross. It is always a moment of deep emotion. No is obliged to kneel and kiss the wood of the cross and if they do no one has to explain why. We choose the terrifying freedom opened by the death of God and Jesus turns this terror into peace. Rumi understood this:

I called through your door,
“The mystics are gathering
in the street. Come out!” “Leave me alone. I’m sick.”
“I don’t care if you’re dead!
Jesus is here, and he wants to resurrect somebody!”

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