When I lived at St. Anthony, each year as Lent came along, I would have a conversation about it with Joan Wilichowski, our secretary-receptionist-amazing person. We would agree that in most years you didn’t have to choose a “penance” or some practice to do, and that it seemed Lent would often bring its own issue to deal with. Well this year we got a doozy!
Who ever expected anything like we have been experiencing in this late winter and early spring? People all over the world have been handed something that has greatly challenged people with great sickness, suffering, economic trouble and death.
And now we come to Good Friday, when we again meditate on the death of Jesus Christ, who remained faithful to his mission to the point of his own death. Perhaps we have struggled with that very reality during our lives. Why did Christ have to die, and to die in such a horrible way? And what has this meant for our own spirituality and our own experience of suffering? And what can the cross say to us in this strange season of pandemic?
People have sometimes pondered the very title for this day. Good Friday. Why is such a thing called “good?” The death by execution of a man who “went about doing good.” What is good about that? Well, we Christians know that this horrible death was “good” in the sense that it was not the end, but that it led to Resurrection and new life. But the death of Jesus on Good Friday also reminds us that suffering is part of human experience and that we can believe that Jesus walks with us through our suffering and always points to healing and new life. In the midst of any suffering, we may believe that in theory, but it may be hard to hold to that belief when life simply hurts.
Recently Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron said in a conference with priests: “If there was grace on Calvary, and there was, then there can be grace in the current time of pandemic.” We are to believe that and hold to it. Where can we see grace in these difficult days?
We may need to practice seeing and finding moments of grace, moments of the sacred, moments that are “good.” I would suggest that in these times when we are forced to slow down, to simply stop in our ordinary lives, we can practice looking to the sacred moments in little things that might move us to gratitude. We can choose to appreciate some simple things that we perhaps too easily see as what is “normal.” If we have food and shelter, we can be grateful. We can look at a sunrise or sunset and be grateful. We can watch the springtime activity of birds and other creatures and appreciate their presence among us and be grateful. We can look on the faces of those close to us and once again appreciate what they mean to us.
We can choose to tell people we love them and care about them, especially if that is something we too easily neglect. We can say “thank you” a lot. All of these suggestions, of course, can be mere words. But if we look, and look again, and choose to appreciate, we may find moments of grace that can be called “good.”
The outcome of the pandemic remains uncertain. In this season, as we reflect again on the dying and rising of Jesus, can we see moments of death and resurrection, moments of goodness, in our experience?
–Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.