BY VIRGINIA RYAN
This question fascinates me: Why do Catholics throng to Church on Good Friday? It's a strange reality that the darkest moment in our Christian story draws the biggest crowd.
Is it custom or habit or guilt? Or do we naturally resonate with this unspeakable suffering? As adults we are acutely aware that the dead cold metal of unrelenting suffering has the power to destroy our hearts and lives. We instinctively try to make sense of this suffering and seek the transformative power of love.
How do we discuss this with our children? What do say to them? In short, the story of The Passion is only understood in the light of the Resurrection. The Cross is a reality we can not escape that but it's not the whole story and that's what defines us as Christians. Jesus conquers death and sin – Love is stronger than hate and life is stronger than death.
The great Catholic theologian, Father Karl Rahner, wrote these words about Good Friday. I hope they may give you some clarity or food for thought.
"Faith looks at the cross of the Lord. What this Cross first says to believers for their own lives is the simple yet frightening fact affecting the whole of life - that the cross has to do with things in people's lives which they cannot escape in the long run.
In the life of Jesus Himself the Cross was unfathomably terrifying and unique, due to its circumstances. However, not only in the frightful course of history are there repeatedly and everywhere, down to the most recent days, occurrences before whose darkness and horror we are struck dumb, without a clue, just as we are in the face of Jesus' death by execution.
In the final analysis, there are not happy and unhappy persons, winners and losers, but only the vanquished: people who have been cast into that killingly silent unfathomability that renders us lonely in a thousand ways – poverty, illness, failure, cramped existence, frightful societal injustice.
In Christian terminology we designate this unfathomableness with the hackneyed and pious-sounding word: "CROSS." The Cross is also the sign of Christ's victory over sin and death. Christ conquers through the Cross. Our hope is in the Cross. Our life is in the Cross, and out of the Cross comes the Resurrection.
Jesus said: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." And Karl Rahner finishes his reflection with the words: "The gaze of love rests on the crucified one and the Christian knows: I am embraced by an eternal love in the midst of my disappointments, my misery…I am myself liberated by this love that encompasses me into the possibility of being able to love human beings and God."
Follow the crowds and take your children to church on Good Friday. Let the power of the symbols raise their questions and let your heart answer them.