A Good Friday Reflection by Patricia Muehlbauer
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? (Sung)
A reading from the Gospel according to John
Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pontius Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus from the Cross. Pilate gave permission. So Joseph came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had come to talk to Jesus at night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about one hundred pounds. The two men took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified, there was a garden and, in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. So Joseph and Nicodemus laid the body of Jesus there because of the Jewish Preparation Day - for the tomb was close by.
The Word of the Lord
Center of My Life (Sung)
O Lord, you are the center of my life; I will always praise you,
I will always serve you, I will always keep you in my sight.
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart I keep the Lord ever in my sight, since God is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad, even in safety shall my body rest. For you will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay.
Picture yourself there with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Who are these two men?
Joseph was a wealthy Jewish member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews. It had religious, civil and criminal jurisdiction. He was a secret supporter of Jesus and did not join in the Sanhedrin's actions against him. He asked Pilate's permission to remove Jesus' body. Pilate granted it.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and also a member of the Sanhedrin. Out of fear he had come to Jesus at night. He would not rest until he found truth; he came to realize that Jesus was the source of that very truth. He could not be satisfied with the legalism of his fellow Pharisees, that adherence to the letter of the law, ignoring its spirit. He was wise and courageous, devoted enough to help Joseph of Arimathea treat Jesus' body with dignity and respect.
John's Gospel tells us that: "In the place where Jesus had been crucified, there was a garden, with a new tomb." Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloe - about a hundred pounds. They lovingly wrapped Jesus' body in cloth with perfumed oils and placed it in the tomb that was close at hand.
There is a Doctor who is also a religious Sister, Doctor Adele O'Sullivan, who treats the homeless in her clinic in Phoenix, AZ She tells of Jerry who came very drunk during a brutal heat wave. His clothes were stuck to his body from a rash. She and her nurses bathed him, dressed and wrapped his wounds, fed him and gave him clothes. He told her that nobody had ever been that kind to him before. Sister Adele invited him to return, but sadly, his body was found in an alley, still dressed in his new clothes. She recalled: "We didn't know it at the time, but we prepared his body for burial." Think about that. Then ask: "Why are we here today?"
On this Friday we call Good we are asked to ponder our role in this sacred story, to put ourselves into the scenes of the Passion. As we walk from the Cross to the garden with Joseph and Nicodemus, I am reminded of every funeral procession I have ever been part of. So often when a loved one dies, I feel suspended on a tenuous thread between grief and relief, sadness at losing a physical presence that I loved and joy at his/her soul's release from earthly suffering.
Today the earth quaked, boulders split, tombs opened, darkness came over the earth and the sanctuary curtain was torn in two. Yet, I realize that the horror of Calvary is redemptive, not destructive!
Jesus' hands and feet were nailed to a Cross, yet it was love that held him there. Those same hands reach out in blessing to me, serving the bread and wine of my salvation. Yes, I realize that the horror of Calvary is redemptive, not destructive!
Jesus died today bearing the pain and disgrace of my sin. His was denial and abandonment, a slow death at my refusal to love. Yet, I realize that the horror of Calvary is redemptive, not destructive!
Now confused and bewildered, I come with Joseph and Nicodemus and watch as they seal the tomb. I hear Jesus' promise to be with us always and wonder how can that be possible now!? Yet, then I realize that the horror of Calvary is not destructive. It is indeed redemptive!
I listen to the words Jesus left imprinted in my heart and I know that I can find him in friend and enemy, in mother and child, in co-worker and beggar, in those I love and those who don't love me! I can have the courage to seek Jesus everywhere because I now know that the horror of Calvary is indeed redemptive liberation from death for each person God loves!
On a tree of horror on a Friday we call Good, Jesus' outstretched arms reach to embrace me. He gives his life so I may dwell in that embrace. Jesus bears a Cross of pain, tasting the despair of loneliness and the loneliness of death. He suffers all the broken dreams of a world of people who claim his name as Christians yet deny his love to one another. He dives into the waters of my sin to bathe me in his Mercy. Jesus thirsts for my faith; I offer him fragile fidelity.
Yet with that same outstretched hand, Jesus reaches out to invite me to span the chasm of Calvary to leap into the heart of God.
May Jesus' Passion be always in our hearts.
Now We Remain (Sung)