Living in a Good Friday world
The Triduum, the shortest liturgical season, has always held a special place in my heart. This is especially true of Good Friday. Good Friday was always an emotionally charged day during which I focused a great deal on my sinfulness and weaknesses in gratitude for the mercy of God. And while the Triduum, and Good Friday specifically, still hold a place of prominence in my heart, the focus has shifted in the past several years.
The shift began when I moved to the Midwest and started attending the "Walk for Justice and Peace." Each year local faith leaders representing several faith communities and social justice organizations lead this variation of the traditional Stations of the Cross. On this walk people are encouraged to carry small wooden crosses with an injustice written on the crossbar (e.g. racism, gun violence, capital punishment, income inequality, the lack of welcome to refugees).
We carry our crosses on a walk through downtown, and we stop to meditate on each Station in front of a business or government building that represents the injustices in our world. We reflect on the fact that Jesus is still beaten, mocked and crucified today. And we consider our call to work for an end to the injustices that plague our world.
Because of this walk my focus has broadened from my personal sinfulness and need for mercy to societal sins and our need of mercy and peace. This year, more than in years past, I feel a need for this walk for our nation and for our world. At this time I feel more acutely that people of faith must pray for the well being of our nation and our world.
These days it is very easy to see the Passion of Christ played out on the global stage.
First, the vitriolic and violent nature of our current political climate is both alarming and frightening. However, what we see playing out in rallies and hear in speeches, debates and interviews has always been around, but under the surface. The anger, racism, and misogyny are not new, necessarily. They've been under the surface in the psyche of the United States since the inception of our nation. However, now these attitudes and biases are becoming more apparent, popular and normalized in such a way that people of faith can no longer turn a blind eye to these injustices.
Now that our eyes have seen what has perhaps always been there, we cannot ignore it. Jesus has been scourged, mocked and made to carry heavy crosses by institutionalized and covert oppression of the vulnerable.
My question is why did it take this political climate to open our eyes?
The recent terrorist attacks — Brussels, Istanbul, Ankara, Dalori Village in Nigeria — remind us, too, of our world's need of prayer and conversion. It is important to note that many people in the United States have heard nothing about some of these attacks. We all heard about the bombings in Brussels, but the coverage of the attacks in Turkey and Nigeria was not nearly the same by Western media outlets. Why is that? Many online commentators and analysts speculate that it is because these are non-European nations with high Muslim populations. This could be true, but one can only guess, really. However, the fact that the reasoning doesn't sound far-fetched should bother us.
However, we should be bothered by more than the lack of media coverage. The violence in our world — through terrorist attacks, mass shootings, the physical beating of political protestors, the hateful rhetoric — needs to become more to us than media headlines that cause a vague sense of pity. The blood of our sisters and brothers cries out to God for mercy and justice. It is Jesus himself who is suffering in these tragic situations.
If I were to reflect on all the injustices in our world and all the ways Jesus is crucified today, this would become a multi-volume work. However, it is important that each of us takes the time to reflect on the way Jesus' Passion plays out today — and our role in that. And we must pray for the grace to be people of courage, compassion and peace.
Several months ago there was a lot of criticism on social media against those who said they were praying for certain situations of injustice. The criticism was that we need more than prayer — we need action. I suggest that we need both. Where else will we find the capacity for action and a path ahead except through fervent prayer? It is prayer that gives direction and strength to our actions for peace and justice.
And so, as we enter the Triduum time, let us pray for ourselves and for our world. Let us also pray that we might never forget that although it seems that we are living in a Good Friday world, the Resurrection is a fact and is our hope. Evil will never have the last word. Let us be sure that we are helping God, goodness and mercy have the final word.
[Nicole Trahan is a member of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (Marianist Sisters) who teaches sophomore religion at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School, serves as the National Director of Vocations for the Marianist Sisters, and is director of the pre-Novitiate program for her province.]