From noon on, darkness came over the whole land[a] until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.
— Matthew 27:45-50
There is a wonderful scene in the movie The Shack in which the character that represents the Holy Spirit challenges our sense of what is good and bad in the world. “‘Let me begin by asking you a question. When something happens to you, how do you determine whether it is good or bad?’
Mack, the character at the very center of the story, thinks for a moment before answering. ‘Well, I haven’t really thought about that. I guess I would say that something is good when I like it — when it makes me feel good or gives me a sense of security. Conversely, I’d call something bad that causes me pain or something I want.’
“‘So it is pretty subjective then?’
‘“I guess it is.’
“‘And how confident are you in your ability to discern what indeed is good for you, or what is bad?’”
At some level, that is the question: how confident are you in your ability to know what is good and what is bad. Good Friday? In what sense? Darkness over all the world surely feels bad. Why have you forsaken me? Sounds bad. Breathed his last? Seems bad, and yet, somehow what seems the worst is for us the ground of our greatest joy. Perhaps the problem is that we do not know what is good and what is bad. Perhaps our only hope is to fall into the grace of the one who makes all things good.
These seems like awful days, filled with fear, loneliness, danger, and suffering. It certainly doesn’t feel like “good” that we will not gather for Easter Sunday. It doesn’t feel like “good” that millions are losing their jobs. It doesn’t feel like “good” that thousands are dying. Indeed there is much that is bad in this whole situation, but our faith is that somehow, in the mystery of God, there is hope. Somehow, the one who holds us in this moment will guide us through.
Julian of Norwich was a mystic from the middle ages. The singular phrase for which she is known rings through all the centuries proclaiming a faith in the one who is Good: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” May this Good Friday be for us a day to hold to the truth of God’s great passion for us.
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” v. 2:
Forbid me Lord that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to His blood
Prayer: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross so that he might draw the whole world to himself. Grant that we, who glory in this death for our salvation, may also glory in his call to take up our cross and follow him: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.