Good Friday Now and Then

Looking at the past through the lens of the present

The calendar above my desk
announces that today is a good Friday.

But the headlines of my morning paper
counter that claim.
A river of crimson blood
flows through the parched dirt streets
of an ancient city.

It’s a pity really.
Innocent life snuffed out.
Victimized by fanatic fundamentalists.
Warring factions who fashion a wardrobe of power
cloaking the city in a sinister fog.

“Bag dad and bury him,”
a jaded widow doubled in grief
chides her frightened children.
“Hurry please, before your father is disposed
upon some garbage heap.”

This mother’s mourning
continues late into the night.

“I rock my babies to sleep
wishing them sweet dreams
all the while praying my own will come true.
Dreams that my sons and daughters will be able
to grow up without being blown up
never to wake again.”

The complaint of the ancient psalmist is voiced anew.
“Where is God anyway?”
“Why has He forsaken the helpless anyhow?”

The mother of Jesus knew a similar sorrow.
Hunched at the foot of a Roman cross,
Mary inched back in fear and revulsion.
Her swollen eyes looked through
tear-stained fingers at a lifeless body.
It was a body she knew only too well.

This dead man was once the baby
she had gently rocked to sleep.
This bloody corpse had once been the toddler
whose bloodied knees she had tenderly bandaged.
This object of her grief had (not so long ago)
been her twelve-year-old Bar Mitzvah boy.
You know.
The one who went missing for three days
only to eventually to be found in the Temple
talking with the elders.

And now that life
(which God had supernaturally given her)
was gone.

As she lived her own nightmare that day,
I doubt Mary dared to dream
she would again find her Son in three days time.

The injustice was just too blinding.
The pain too intense.
The reasons why the blood was flowing
not nearly clear enough.

Two women (separated by two millennia)
drank bitter dregs from a common cup.
One lost an Iraqi husband.
The other a Jewish son.
For neither was it a good Friday.
It was a bad news day all the way.

And in the midst of human agony
the likes of which few of us could possibly imagine,
God has a way of showing up unannounced and unexpected.

It’s called Easter.

The Bar Mitzvah boy did it again!