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Click the link below to read Fr Mark’s Weekly Message. pastors_blog

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Good Friday – 2015 We gather today not to mourn the death of the Lord Jesus. For he is not dead! He is alive! We know the end of the story, that is, the event of  the resurrection that led to new life.

 Why then today do we spend time commemorating the passion, death and burial of Jesus?

 It is not a day of mourning. It is a day of awareness. This is a day to come to some understanding of who our God is and how Jesus relates that to us through his suffering and death. And with this understanding we can deal with the difficult issues of life.

 Good Friday! Makes me think of the cartoon strip “BC”. Grog and Amok are talking. Grog says “I hate the term “good” Friday. “Why” asks Amok. And Grog replies “for my Lord was hanged on a tree that day.”  Amok responded “if you were going to be hanged that day and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” Grog said “well, good!”  Amok walks away and said “have a good day.”

 We need to be aware of the significance of the events that we commemorate this day. To do this I was reading a book by a theologian, Sister Elizabeth Johnson entitled “Quest for the living God”.  Sister Elizabeth tries to clarify for us who God is, not images created by our pious thinking, but based upon Scripture and the human experience.

 She writes of the Black/Afro-American people who came out of a slave culture in the 1700’s and 1800’s.  This was a dark period of American history.  It was graphically portrayed recently in the movie “12 Years a Slave.” That’s the story of a free black man living in New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery and transported to the South. For twelve years he endured degradation and humiliation.  Then lawyers from the North came to free him with documentation and to return him home. Part of the story illustrated very well the songs they grew out of the black slave experience.

 It was the American black slave that created music that lifted them not out of their condition, but above it. One of the songs we sing today is a black slave anthem “Were You There?

 “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed him to a tree? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?”

 Of course that is a silly question! Of course I was not there! Who then, who are they singing about, singing/asking the question, “Where You There?” It’s God! They are singing to/asking God, where you there when your son was crucified? God, were you there when they nailed him to a tree? God, were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

 And what was God’s answer? “Yes, of course I was there!” God, the Creator/God the father/parent was there. Well then, why didn’t he stop the suffering of his Son? This is the question that we need to ponder this day.

 When we examine the history of the black slave repertoire of songs, we come to understand that they singing not to right the injustice of slavery but to rise above it and to know that their God was with them in their suffering and degradation. They lived with hope as they looked forward to the promise land where “Jesus is a coming” and will reward the faithful and punish the oppressor.

 Slavery, a dark past that continues even up to today. The movie Selma showed us the struggle just 50 years ago for equality and human rights denied to the black person. The suffering endured for the Black person but their faith encouraged them.

 Many people in today’s American society still struggle and suffer for equality. Who among us may look at a Black person, an Asian, a Latino, a street person, and avert our eyes to refuse a handshake or even a smile of acceptance? I think of the immigrant of today and the struggle to be legally in our country. I think of my immigrant ancestors and yours, the Italians, the Germans, the Irish, the Jews, discriminated against when they first came to the United States. Their struggle to be accepted.

 I think of the elderly and the terminally ill and the offer in today’s society to provide them with a physician’s assisted suicide. We do this because we want to promote a life without suffering, a comfortable life without pain. And yet we have a God who supports our life of suffering and helps to raise us above it as the songs of the black slaves of old professed.

 Our God does not call us to accept the injustices in our society. Our God doesn’t call us to glorify pain and suffering. Our God does call us to know that he is with us as we endure the tragedies of human existence.

 For God is a parent, a mother as well as a father. When God the creator saw his son on the cross, I am sure he wept. How cruel, He must have thought, men are to men, women are to women, men are to women, and women are to men. How cruel!

 God looks over us as a parent looks over a sick child.  How often does a father wish he had a cure for a sick youngster but feels powerless? How often does a mom say “Lord make me suffer, not my child!”

 God is a parent, not interfering with our free will, allowing us to get sick, to endure injustice, to ignore love. And God is sad.

 When Jesus was on the cross and yelled out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” What is God’s answer? “Yes, I was there when they crucified my Lord.”  And Jesus as portrayed in John’s Gospel, we heard today as one who is in control of his life.  He does not cry out in agony, but says calmly “it is finished!” He knows that His Father is with him in his sufferings.

 The events we remember this day urges us to rise above the human condition and have hope, to  have faith that there will be a solution, an answer, that may come from doctors, from friends, or sympathetic leaders. It’s an answer that may come in three days as in the case of Jesus. Or maybe three weeks, or three months, or three years. Enslavement to certain human conditions will surely end as the history of America taught us, enslavement to disease, enslavement to injustice and enslavement to a loveless life.

 Let us be a people who today do not mourn but are more aware of whom our God is. Let us go forth and “go tell it on the Mountain, that Jesus Christ is a suffering God that understands your pain. That those who suffer with addictive behavior, those who suffer with physical maladies, that those who suffer with emotional imbalance, that your God, the parent God, suffers with you as we his people suffer with you.

 God, were you there when they crucified me? God, were you there when they nailed me to a tree? God, were you there when they laid me in the tomb?

 Yes, says God. I was there. I was there with my grace. I was there with my love to help you endure.

 Today as we venerate the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world, let us not mourn but let us become aware that God loves us and that our God suffers with us as he suffered that day with his Son.

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