“Thank God It’s Friday:”
A Reflection On That Friday We Call “Good”

by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador

Jesus cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” And having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

…He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried. He descended into hell… (The Apostles’ Creed)

In my living room at home, I have a shrine, a sacred space, so to speak, a place in my humble home set apart where I could commune with God. On this shrine is an open Bible and beside it is an icon, a picture of our Lord. On certain mornings, sometimes the sunlight directly shines on the picture, and the strong light obscures for me the image of the face of the Lord. When it is very sunny and bright, it is hard for me to make out the face. One would think that light would make the image clearer. Actually, it is when the skies are cloudy or gray, or even a bit dark that I could best make out the details of the image of the face. As I ponder this, I often reflect how God has been ever present in my life- present not only in the bright and joyful but also in the dark moments of my life. I often envy people who say that they behold God best in nature or music or poetry or meditation. I often envy people who seemed to have it easy with God. Because for me, I best behold God in the dark and painful events of my life.

Now that might sound odd because often enough, I think, we tend to equate God with happiness and joy and peace and order, and security… not with sadness, or chaos, or pain or suffering or darkness, so much so that when some crisis occur in our lives, we begin to question the love of God for us, we begin to question his presence in our lives, asking if God has somehow forgotten us, or is angry at us, or has left us. We want a God who would function according to the way we think he should work in our lives. We want a God who would do what we want him to do, we want a God who would submit to our will, we want a God who would act according to our schedule and plans, we want a God who is predictable, we want a God who we could box in our own human formula or calculation. We want a God who would make us happy, and not sad. We want a God who would protect us from harm or suffering or pain. We want a God who would shield us from the insecurities of life. But sooner or later we find out what the religious author, Carol Hughes, said, “God and love [sometimes] are neither ‘nice’ nor ‘sweet.’” Many times, we do not experience God as nice or sweet as we want him to be.

The Friday we call “Good,” the day upon which we commemorate the sufferings and death of Jesus on the cross seem to drive this point home to us. This Friday brings us not to the God of our desiring, a sweet and nice God, but to a God perhaps we would rather not have. I suspect that we would rather jump ahead to Easter Sunday than sit here for hours pondering an event that seems to destroy our illusion of a God who seems nice and sweet all the time. On Good Friday, we contemplate God not in light but in darkness, we contemplate God not in happiness but in suffering. On Good Friday we contemplate God not in his abiding presence but in his desolating absence. On Good Friday, we contemplate God not in his thunderous voice, but in his silence. On Good Friday, we contemplate God not in life, but in death.

On the Friday we call “Good”, Jesus himself came to know God not as light but as darkness, not as presence but as absence. He experienced God not as a “nice” and “sweet” deity, but a terrifying one. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why? Why have you forsaken me? Why?” On the Friday that is “Good”, Jesus came up against the silence of God, Jesus came up against the terrifying night that hid God. God is experienced not as heaven but as hell. When Christians recite the Apostles’ Creed as part of the worship, these terrifying words are said, “He (that is, Jesus) descended to hell.”

Yet, even in the darkest moment of his life, even as he died searching for God, Jesus refused to give up his faith on God. In the midst of suffering, in pain, in confusion and chaos, in death and in hell, Jesus refused to believe that God had truly abandoned him. He refused to give up on God even if God seemed to have given up on him. He embraced the darkness, he embraced the night, believing that even in the midst of the awful things of life, even in the human experience of hell, God would never be absent even though he was silent. In the midst of things he could not understand, he abandoned himself to the hands of the God who seemed to have abandoned him. In that hour, he refused to believe that God had stopped loving him, and so he willingly placed himself in the hands of the silent and hidden God. Jesus quoted the prayer of Psalm 31: “Into your hands I commend my spirit. But he added one word to the prayer, and the word was “Father.” Or more accurately in contemporary popular language, “dad.” Abba, Pater, Father. Dad. Even in his darkness, for him God remained his loving Father. Jesus refused to believe that God ceased to be a loving “Father” to him.

And indeed, Jesus was right. God did not disappoint him, for Easter shows us that God was in the darkness of Good Friday, that God was really present in the seeming emptiness loneliness and abandonment of Good Friday. And that from out of evil and death, God brought forth goodness, salvation and life…

But it is scary for us to let ourselves submit to the darkness of God. It is hard for us to trust in God who is hidden and silent. It is difficult for us to abandon ourselves to God in the night of faith. Yet, what Holy Week teaches us is that we could reach the brightness of Easter Morning only if we walk through the darkness of Good Friday. To hear the joyous noise of the Easter Alleluias, we must first endure the silence of God’s desert. The days from Good Friday to Easter teach us that the path to certainty of God’s love for us is through abandonment of our selves to him in the uncertainty of the dark night of faith. Whenever we struggle with the dark moments of life, whenever we grapple with God’s silence in our lives, let us abandon ourselves to him, and say, “As I wait to behold your appearing in my life, O hidden God, as I wait to hear your voice, O God of silence, I embrace this night as holy, this darkness as a blessing waiting to unfold. I trust that you are here in this terrifying silence, and so, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

 

© 2007 Noel E. Bordador
The Reverend Noel E. Bordador is a queer Filipino Episcopal worker-priest in the Diocese of New York.


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