Good Friday 2013 Message
As we participate in the Good Friday liturgy, we are reminded of the intensity of God’s love, the depth of His suffering and the value of the salvation that this love and suffering brought about. The Malankara liturgy contains rather lengthy narration of the manifold sufferings, both physical and mental, that our Lord had to undergo, starting at the garden of Gethsemane and culminating in the painful death on the cross. The thrust of this narration is to highlight how inevitable it was for Jesus to suffer in order to guarantee our salvation. One definite message that Good Friday could bring home to us is the Christian synthesis of love, suffering and salvation.
It is God’s love that prompts Him to suffer. In the third chapter of the Gospel of John, we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (verse 16). The love of God for us made Him sacrifice his only Son. Again before his death, Jesus gathered his disciples and told them, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13). Love demands suffering and sacrifice extending to the sacrifice of one’s life. The love of Jesus prompts Him to go through all the painful experience of Good Friday and to finally die on the cross. It is this love and suffering that prepares the possibility of our salvation. There is no other explanation for the suffering of God.
Genuine love demands suffering. This is the truth about love. Love and suffering are the two sides of the same coin. If we love someone, we must at the same time be prepared to suffer for that person. And the more we suffer for that person, the more will we be prepared to love that person. The person who suffers most for me would be the person who loves me the most. Love without the readiness to suffer is pseudo-love. Suffering is the price that we pray for love.
But every sacrifice taken for the sake of love is salvific. This is the Christian theology of suffering. My road to the fullest realization of my human existence, namely my salvation, is prepared by all the sufferings that I take on myself for the sake of love. Moreover, if we suffer for someone out of love, that suffering will turn out to be a blessing in that person’s life also. That suffering will generate tremendous amount of goodness not only in me, but also in the person loved and all around me. The best gift that we could give to someone whom we love is to suffer for that person joyfully and silently, even without that person knowing it. This is the nature of the love that the God of Good Friday has taught us. The best parallel for this from our tangible experience would be the suffering of a mother for her children.
We live in a culture that some way or other tends to resist suffering altogether. Definitely, unnecessary and meaningless sufferings have to be got rid of. But the suffering that is the price of love, that accompanies every act of genuine love, can never be avoided. Our Lord’s response to Peter was very harsh when Peter resisted suffering in the life of Jesus. He even characterizes the attitude of Peter as satanic (Mt. 16: 21-28). If I stand for love, if I stand for the values of the Gospel, I will have to suffer; there is no excuse. But that suffering is the only means for the realization of the Kingdom of God and that is why we call that suffering salvific. Every family relation and every genuine human relation is built on this fundamental affinity between love, suffering and salvation. The Good Friday invites us to embrace suffering joyfully in our life.