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Good Friday 2007

  • To:
  • Subject: Good Friday 2007
  • From: Grant Mauricio Gallup <grant73@turbonett.com.ni>
  • Date: Thu, 05 Apr 2007 15:54:17 -0600

H O M I L Y    G R I T S   GOOD FRIDAY, 2007

April 6, 2007

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 or Genesis 22:1-18 or Wisdom 2:1,12,24
Psalm 22:1-21, or 22:1-11 Deus, Deus meus,
or 40:1-14,Expectans, expectavi,
or 69:1-23 Salvum me, fac
Hebrews 10:1-25
John (18:1-40)19:1-37

We have for centuries dated the years of history "B.C.", before
Christ, and "A.D." for Anno Domini, the year of the Lord. Nowadays we
see in use the more ecumenical style, BCE, "before the Common era."
But the dotted line on which we have divided the times is wavery and
unsure, for we are not certain of the year of Jesus' birth, which
began our "common era," and which we use as our home base. We were
thinking of the first Christmas as the hinge of heaven gate, and have
never thought to count the years to and fro from the first Good
Friday, or the first Easter, instead of from his birth day. Yet it is
these days at the end of Semana Santa, Holy Week, that are the
hinges, with Easter, of our years. Everything in our history dates
> from these grim noondays, that breathless dawn. For no one would be
remembering Jesus' birthday (as we remember George Washington's, or
Buddha's, or Muhammad's) if there had only been Good Friday and no
Easter. It is impossible for Christians to celebrate Good Friday as
we celebrate all other holy days, in commemoration of that isolate
event. It is intolerable to us to observe it as we observe the
anniversaries of the assassinations of Great Soul Ghandi, or Martin
Luther King, or Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Those, like the first Pilate
Friday itself, are memories in mourning and in grief. They had no
Easter, 'though the blood of those martyrs has seeded a universal
church of hope in humanity all over the world. But the crucifixion of
Jesus on Good Friday is so intimately connected with Easter that St.
John's gospel looks upon it as the hour of his glory, the day of his
triumph, as much so as is the discovery of the empty tomb and the
mystical awareness of the guest at Emmaus.

The Church has hesitated to celebrate the eucharist this day, and
there were times in history when she did not do so, and shut her
doors as under interdict from God. And so even today she dares ask no
favors of God, no blessings today, wears no trumpery nor tinsel, and
sings no joyous song. She hoards some meager consecrated bread and
wine, sneaked in from previous tables to have this mass of the
presanctified, the previously hallowed, and sheepishly creeps to the
cross and kisses it, to defuse our shame for having built it, and for
having nailed him there. But the cross is still there, under our
piety, behold its hard wood, under the gauzy veil.

Thomas Cahill (in "Desire of the Everlasting Hills: the World Before
and After Jesus") remarks how we try to avoid it. "Our most common
reference to the horror of the crucifixion is the sanitized cross,"
he writes, "which, whether Protestant-pure or festooned and entabled
in the manner of the Eastern churches seems determined to keep our
mind off the 'worm and no man' (of Psalm 22) . . . the poor and the
miserable may know better. Whether under a wayside Polish crucifix or
a Baroque depiction of the Ultimate Agony in a Mexican cathedral, the
bowed people one sees on their knees before this image seldom have
the patina of the well-heeled and self-satisfied."

When I was in seminary nearly fifty years ago, we Anglo-Catholics
fought to have real crucifixes on seminary walls, and low church
protestants fought to take them down. They liked shiny brass crosses,
with no corpus on them at all. Clean, manly religion. But we all
avoided connecting this symbol to the hangman's noose or the electric
chair, which favorite Old American furniture few of us fought to
eradicate from the human household then. "By a perversion of
justice," says Isaiah, "he was taken away." It is always a perversion
of justice to practice capitalist punishment. "Behold the wood of the
cross" is the rubric under every such act of villainy and

Surely we will notice the clinically bloodless sacrifices presided
over by the electronic virtual president we have now, George W. Bush,
the first president "selected" instead of "elected", who sends dozens
of Jesus' kin from Golgotha to their graves by due process and
popular approval, as an emperor sending the damned to the arena. No
nails now, no screams of God's abandonment: they are air-brushed from
these Calvaries. It is the way we have always dealt with Good
Friday--avoid it, and look at the Easter bunny.

"Still the Cross"
E. Merrill Root.

Calvary is a continent
Today. America
Is but a vast and terrible
New Golgotha.

The Legion (not of Rome today)
Jests. The Beatitutdes
Are called by our new Pharisees
Sweet platitudes.

We tear the seamless robe of love
with great guns' lightning-jets;
We set upon Christ's head a crown
of bayonets.

"Give us Barabbas!" So they cried
Once in Jerusalem:
In Alcatraz and Leavenworth
We copy them.

With pageant and with soldiers still
We march to Golgotha
And crucify Him still
Upon a cross of war.

O blasphemous and blind! shall we
Rejoice at Eastertide
When Christ is risen but to be

Jesus never mistook himself for Messiah, because the expectation that
people had for Messiah was, in his mind, a mistaken one. He came to
Jerusalem, as he relentlessly taught, and his disciples reluctantly
learned, not as a wonder worker who could solve all the nation's
problems by miracles or magic. He wanted people to take into their
own hands the future that God was offering for their lives. He asked
that people turn from deceit, greed, and chicanery to
straightforwardness (what Michael Gorbachov called
Glasnost--open-ness, transparency) and fairness. The crowd mistook
him for a politician, and turned on him first chance. Jesus came
among us a God's "slave boy", as the Hebrew scriptures' language puts
it, and in every age he has re-appeared in the servants of God who
accept the apron of service, the cup of suffering. He drew to him
along his way of sorrows some disciples who were not so naive as
those who choose seats of authority somewhat prematurely. "Blessed
are those who are not disillusioned with me" Jesus said. Along came
Simon of Cyrene, not entirely by choice, to carry the cross. John
means to tell us the powerless again are closest to the cross, and
"there were many women there at the cross, who had followed Jesus
> from Galilee." John has them standing near Jesus in his agony: his
mother, his aunt Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, along
with John, his beloved. They were the last who saw him alive, the
first to see him dead. John Dominic Crossan suggests that vultures
ate his sarx, his flesh, and graveyard dogs his wounds, which was
what happened to criminals who died this way, and that the infant
church was so mortified it could not remember this, and forgot it
happened, and gave Jesus a decent burial courtesy of an invented
undertaker from an invented village.

Caiaphas was a loyal agent of the empire, named by Valerius Maximus,
and it was he who invented "the final solution" of the Jesus problem.
"You don't seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see
what it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the
whole nation to be destroyed" (John 11:50). It was not the Hebrew
children, but the power groups of a puppet state who devised the
scenario of Good Friday. Crucifixion was a Roman punishment, for
crimes against the empire. Bereavement counsellors were not retained
by Judean funeral parlors.

This is a more disgraceful death than the fiction of a borrowed tomb,
tidied up, indeed invented to fulfill a prophecy. Instead: "Blessed
are those who are not disillusoned in me." The gospel of Good
Friday-Easter is that God acts in history through the people, through
the poor and the oppressed, the diminished and the powerless, and
overcomes the worst that the bent world can do to them to defeat them
and rob them of life and dignity, as it did to our brother Jesus.
"And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the
offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," says the letter
to the Hebrews.

It is a lie to say that God helps those that help themselves, for
every crook in the world knows how to help himself. Every bought-off
alderman can help himself. It is blasphemy to say God helps Caiphas,
who used religion to enrich his family, or such as Judas, who used
Jesus to enrich himself. Pilate found Jesus a nuisance and a
subversive, and acted like the U.S. ambassador in Honduras, or
Guatemala, or Nicaragua, or nowadays in the puppet state of the
Israelis, or the charade state of Palestine. They keep the evil
system going, and help to nip revolution in the bud. They crucify the
option for the poor, and set vultures to their battered bodies. But
God helps those who cannot help themselves. God raises up the
murdered, God raises up the destroyed and defeated, those who are
crucified and left for carrion with the rebel and outlaw, those who
are entombed by the rich in their religion.

God empowers those who cry for liberation and deliverance, for an
"integral salvation," that does not limit itself to pie in the sky,
or a saviour disappeared into the ether of skygod piety. There is no
better way to celebrate this week, no holier way to celebrate these
thrilling days, than to come with the women here, and look for the
Body of the One who is our Friend. We shall have to get up early, for
others are on the way, to meet us at the tomb.

W. H. Auden's poem, "Friday's Child" was written (1958) in memory of
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred by the perennial empire, at
Flossenburg, April 9th, 1945. These are the last stanzas:

Now, did He really break the seal
And rise again? We dare not say;
But conscious unbelievers feel
Quite sure of Judgment Day.

Meanwhile, a silence on the cross,
As dead as we shall ever be,
Speaks of some total gain or loss,
And you and I are free

To guess from the insulted face
Just what Appearances He saves
By suffering in a public place
A death reserved for slaves.