Good Friday – the one day where millions of the world’s Christians forgo a night at the movies or a party with friends and family to go to church. The most solemn day of the Christian year, it commemorates Christ’s atoning death on the cross for the sins of the world.
It’s a hard day to celebrate any year – but it’s especially difficult to reflect on Christ’s death in 2020. Why would we want to spend time contemplating a violent, unjust death when all around us, there’s more suffering than we can alleviate and more uncertainty than we can possibly imagine?
There any many insights we can draw from Good Friday – even if we aren’t especially religious. I think one of the most important lessons for this particular moment is that it’s alright to feel lonely or frightened.
Christianity is, at its core, a faith about hope: We believe that Christ was raised from the dead, still lives, and we wait in expectation of his glorious return. But that hope does not mean we have to deny suffering or pretend that it doesn’t exist. Christ cries out from the cross, asking why God has forsaken him. He does not silently endure suffering without question.
Following Christ’s example, then, quelling negative emotions in a time of crisis is not something we should feel compelled to do. Only by allowing ourselves to experience these emotions fully can we hope to emerge on the other side a deeper and more compassionate person. Extend grace to yourself, your family, and your roommates when you find yourself giving way to anxiety, anger, and fear. These emotions are normal, and stuffing them away or being ashamed of them only intensifies them and makes them harder to overcome.
Another lesson Good Friday offers us in these uncertain times is the beauty of self-sacrifice. Christ didn’t have to come into the world, after all. We were the ones who sinned against God, breaking his commandments and ignoring the rules he had laid down for our care and guidance. Yet Christ loved us so much that he chose to take on the vulnerability of human flesh, live and form deep bonds with other humans, and eventually suffer a violent death. Why? So that all who put their faith in him could be saved.
We see such sacrifices around us all the time. We see it in the brave doctors and nurses, risking their lives and working around the clock to care for those who are sick. We see it with those who are self-isolating, choosing the seclusion and loneliness of time alone rather than risk infecting their loved ones and their families. We see it in the millions across the country who have canceled traveling plans, postponed seeing loved ones, and reordered their lives and schedules to make social distancing possible. We see it in the generosity of those donating their government stimulus checks to families in need.
None of us want to make these sacrifices any more than Christ wanted to choose the cross and the tomb. But our love – for our friends and family, for the elderly and vulnerable, for the good of our country – empowers us to make these difficult choices. And as St. Paul tells us in the letter to the Corinthians, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” We often hear these words at wedding ceremonies, describing the love of a bride and groom for one another. But ultimately, they’re words about the self-sacrificial love of Christ – the kind of love that we all value, no matter our faith or lack thereof, and will continue to need to model in the coming weeks.
I believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel for our country, just as I believe that light burst in and shattered the darkness of sin and death on Easter Sunday. But that belief doesn’t obscure or take away from the suffering and fear of this moment. I urge all of us to set our hearts and minds on the example of Christ. There’s a reason that, 2,000 years later, He is a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration to millions around the globe. To choose love amid fear and suffering over comfort – Christ’s acts of courage continue to resound, even centuries later. Let us remember Him and rely on Him in the uncertain months and weeks ahead.