Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.

Christians memorialize the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. When I was a child in the 1950s, on the East Coast, Good Friday was a holiday, and a holy day for Catholics. My family went to church in the afternoon, at 3 pm sharp for Good Friday services. (3 pm has been memorialized as the time of Christ's death.) Women and girls wore black lace veils on their heads. The service always seemed quite long to me, as the priestly procession paraded around the interior of the church, burning incense (I can smell the sharp, sweet vapors of the incense right now), and reciting the Stations of the Cross. After services, we went home and had a simple fish dinner (no meat on Fridays) and went to bed. After services, we did not go out to the movies or have a fancy dinner. We were memorializing the day our Saviour had been put to death. It was a solemn occasion.

I have not been to church services in 30 years or more, except for funerals and weddings. I am sure many things have changed, but I also sure that Good Friday is still celebrated by reading the "Passion" of Christ and reciting the Stations of the Cross and is still considered the most solemn holy day in the Catholic Church.

Holy Saturday always seemed to me to be a waiting day, a non-holiday stuck smack between solemn Good Friday and glorious Easter Sunday. For anyone unfamiliar with Easter, in Christian religions, Easter celebrates the rise of Jesus Christ from the dead, and supports the basis of Christianity, as the resurrection is the ulitmate proof for believers that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God.

Personally, I have always been more impressed by the lessons taught by Jesus than by his death and ressurection. Lessions such as "Love they neighbor as thyself" and "'Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me". His turn-the-other-cheek philosophy replaced the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy. His mandate to feed the hungry and clothe the naked resonates with me still, especially in today's society where many who want to repeal our newly passed health insurance law still manage to call themselves Christians.

I do not read the Bible, but I remember Christ's willingness to cure lepers, the outcasts of society, and stand up to the wealthy. "It is more difficult for the wealthy to enter heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle". He taught forgiveness and compassion and cared little for material goods. Even though I no longer consider myself a practicing Catholic, I learned valuable lessons from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

When my son died, almost 10 years ago, we remembered him, we mourned him, but we also set up a scholarship fund for other students, in a tribute to a young man who did not have a chance to leave a legacy of his own. A pay-it-forward kind of thing. So, I am wondering, why do we not do something similar on Good Friday, in order to pay tribute to this man who taught us how to live and love our fellow man? Of course, Christians should remember what happened to Jesus on Good Friday. But what about remembering all who have been persecuted, for their faith, for the color of their skin, for their sexual orientation? What about doing something for others instead of giving up candy for Lent? Instead of kneeling in church for three hours, why not donate money to a charity, do some volunteer work you would not ordinarily do, participate in a Sierra Club activity to help save the Earth from global warming, or visit a lonely elder in a senior center?

If we were to attend Jesus' memorial service today, I think that he would be expecting much more from us than wailing over his death. I think he would want us to remember the lessons he taught, and, as his disciples, expect us to act on them. Help those less fortunate than yourself. Protect the earth. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Perform one small act of kindness, on this day, a Good Friday, in 2010.

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