A Reflection for Good Friday by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH
Death itself is difficult to face for all of us, and especially difficult for so many of us who are relatively young, healthy and focused on the future . The reality of our own death may seem remote, far off, almost unreal or something we don’t want to think about.
We are often tempted to ask why. Why does God allow death? Why did God allow Jesus to die? We just don’t know why. And Jesus didn’t explain–he just did it. All he said to the apostles was that the Son of Man must suffer and die. He didn’t say why.
Early on Jesus knew his life was headed to Jerusalem–to suffering and death. In the Gospels we hear Jesus instruct his disciples many times that “the Son of Man must suffer and die.” And, if we follow Jesus, our own life is pointed that way also. Human living is a journey to Jerusalem.
Now there is more to life’s journey than death at the end:
Like Jesus’ journey, our journey has lights and shadows along the way,
beginning with the miracle of our own Bethlehem–our own birth;
the growing pains of our own Nazareth–our youth;
the joys of our own accomplishments;
public life in its different dimensions;
the wilderness and its temptations;
Peter, John, Magdalene and even Judas intersecting our lives;
an occasional transfiguration;
the joy of communion with a living God.
And then there are the experiences of letting go–
letting go of family, home, childhood;
letting go of friends and colleagues;
letting go of good health;
letting go of outmoded ideas and limited perceptions;
and finally, letting go of the sheer miracle of being alive.
Our life’s journey always leads to Jerusalem where death is inevitable.
How does this reality of death affect our life right now? Karl Rahner, the Jesuit theologian who so influenced Vatican II, has an insight for us: “for Christ, death was the expression of loving obedience, the free transference of his entire created existence to God.” In other words, Jesus knew his life was a free gift of God and he freely gave it back to God, little by little, day in and day out by the way he served others.
We, too, can be formed in the pattern of Jesus’ life and death as we grow in acceptance of our life as a free gift of God and follow Jesus’ example of service. What could be a more appropriate response to God’s gift of life than to give back that life in service to others as we travel our life’s journey?
On this Good Friday, a day of impasse between Jesus’ life on earth and his life of fullness with the Mystery we call God, let us contemplate our own death as that unique moment when the “yes” we have been saying to God all along will reach its climax in that extraordinary experience when Christ who is life, who has been our life, will fashion us finally and fully to his life and in his image.