Just when I was about to type the opening sentence of this sermon, my phone unexpectedly rang, decided to pick it up and said hello. It came from someone I initially thought was just going to ask about the time for the liturgical service. No, it was damn serious. A lady, with the eagerness of a bride, preparing for wedding next year and exuberant about it, found out last Wednesday, that her fiancé was having an affair with an Engaged lady, who happened to be her friend. Hard evidence showed, her guy was guilty, and when asked, he said, it is what it is, without any expression of remorse to the woman he was going to spend the rest of his life. It was terribly painful, depressingly hard and uncontrollably heart- breaking.
Inexperienced and practically ignorant in this area and perhaps, by nature, slightly hesitant about commenting in matters of the heart, I suddenly felt a need to say something besides listening even if it wouldn’t make sense. Knowing that trust is the foundation of any relationship, I confidently said, there was no reason to stay and begged her instead to move on which I thought was best, since it would be a complete waste of time going steady with someone not worth her effort and undeserving of her love. Further, I advised not to be too affected. Put the burden on him because it wasn’t her fault and thereupon, get the support of family and friends as much as she can. Speaking on top of my head and seemingly, out of touch with reality, it was easy for me to say. Devout Catholic as she was she offered everything to God. Alright, keep me posted, then. But before she hanged up the phone, I queried, …if ever he comes back to you wholeheartedly down to his knees, contrite and resolute, would you take him back? She replied, she might, even if it hurts, followed by a rhetorical question, are we supposed to forgive and forget, Father? It’s costly…
Extremely wanting to preach about forgiveness and atonement, two theological terms that I find quite fascinating and puzzling, I dwelt on it desperately searching for real situations that will capture the moment. Forgiveness and atonement piqued my interest not so much because I badly needed some dose of it, well, maybe to some of you for being late all the time, for sending thank you cards that almost sounds like an apology and for delayed reactions to phone calls especially when it comes to hot button issues and personal complaints. And I hope incorporating that horrible story of infidelity and grace-filled moment of forgiveness wasn’t too much to absorb on a day when we claim, the Death of God.
Good Friday is a day when God shocked a world that was falling apart, through the no less painful story of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, rejection, beating, condemnation and death. It’s become familiar to many of us and overtime, learned to brace ourselves. But looking at the wreckage of the cross, it seemed that the pain that Jesus went through wasn’t so much about the nails laid on his hands and feet, nor the crown of thorns, not even the clothes torn into pieces leaving him almost naked. Rather, it was the excruciating pain of being betrayed by a close and trusted friend, the pain of being denied by his chosen leader of the group, the pain of being wrongfully accused and the burden of being deserted and abandoned by the 12 band of disciples at the moment when he needed the company most and at a time when he asked to spare for a minute or two, but slept, ran away and hid themselves out of fear. And finally, it was the pain of being sentenced to death by the people he thought would have sided and defended him at the last hour.
Late yesterday, I received a text message asking me whether Good Friday was a Holy Day of obligation or not, technically, no, I replied. Call it by any name you want but surely, it is a day when Jesus forgave a dreadfully wrong accuser to the point of death, when he risked his life on the cross, when he refrained from any sort of complaint, when he seriously turned the other cheek, when he remained humble in the face of persecution, and when he allowed himself to be broken into pieces even if he could have gotten himself out of that mess.
Good Friday is also a day when we come to God despite being left to our own devices finding consolation in a community of deep believers. It is a day when God didn’t come to the rescue if that would mean salvation in human terms, when we instead take a glimpse at the whole scene, attempt to relate the passion details to our lives and see nuggets of divine wisdom by joining the stations of the cross. It is a day when we just wanted to be here, do nothing, sit in a pew, maybe, listen to a sermon, fall asleep and slobber but certainly this entire scenario is beyond our grasp, difficult to understand, impossible to imagine and hard to comprehend. It’s not simply a mystery but a blue print of salvation history. Amen.