This morning, I decided to drop by in my office and finish whatever is left on the desk for tonight’s celebration of the Lord’s passion. On the way out, I was met by a mother and her daughter standing just outside the office and pleaded to open the church so she can pray. Sure and without hesitation was my response. What’s going on? She told me she lost her job and wanted God to do something. I offered the daily chapel. It was fine she said for as long as she can pray.
That’s just a tip of the iceberg. As a priest and more so, as a Pastor, I get a lot of prayer requests for healing. I take every petition to heart and I do knock on heaven’s door especially during the consecration. However, I don’t claim direct access to God’s database. I don’t even have the gift foretell the future as others (religious leaders and visionaries) do. I’m just a messenger as ordinary as anybody else with a job too big to fill. The story of Good Friday featuring the Son of God, despite his dramatic plea to let the cup of suffering pass him by, is a classic example that not all prayers are answered, if by answering means granting of the petition as it was.
I hate to say this. There are people who come to church/God only if they need something and if they don’t get what they want and/or if the parish/God himself is unable to help, they get mad and hostile and who knows what comes next. On Good Friday, we do the exact opposite. We come together and accept the fact that we are losers, hopeless of what lies ahead and definitely, not aiming to bounce back.
After the Stations of the Cross, we wait until sundown to gather in the church and surprised to see the interior with the bare essentials and face an altar stripped of any decoration except the cross draped with a white cloth above the empty tabernacle. There’s no introduction, no entrance hymn either, only a procession done in a slow pace by liturgical ministers. As the priest approached the altar, he took his shoes off and prostrated himself as a sign of deep reverence. There was no greeting just an opening prayer. Our attention then is turned to the readings and later to the Passion followed by a brief homily and the ten general intercessions for the Universal Church, ours in silence, to conclude the first part. As the liturgy progresses, it’s hard to absorb everything. When asked to join the line for the veneration of the wood of the cross, we’re at a loss at how in the world do we worship defeat. We’re almost over, though. We’re back in the aisle again, in line to receive communion to publicly testify that we are one with him even at his lowest, baptized into his death, super followers, not fledging disciples.
That said, if there’s a day in the church’s calendar that intercessions of all sorts must be done, it’s Good Friday, a moment in time when God made a statement, a punctuation mark, making us aware that suffering and death is central to Faith just in case, we missed reading the terms and conditions on the day we signed up and/or possibly took it for granted. Amen.