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Love is Stronger than Death. Why We Call it Good Friday

I witnessed the mystery of a love stronger than death which transforms suffering

Every Good Friday is an encounter with Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ, who stretched out his arms to embrace each one of us.We are reminded that death is no longer the final word. For those filled with hope of the Resurrection, it is no longer an enemy but a friend, the passageway to life eternal. The suffering we are invited to bear, when joined to Jesus Christ, can become a vehicle for love and mercy. This is what St Josemaria Escriva called the "Christian Revolution", suffering transformed by grace.

I raised the Cross so that she could touch it with her lips as a sign of her surrendered love. He smiled at me and directed his beloved wife back to the pew. Words were useless. I knew, he knew, and the Lord knew.

I raised the Cross so that she could touch it with her lips as a sign of her surrendered love. He smiled at me and directed his beloved wife back to the pew. Words were useless. I knew, he knew, and the Lord knew.


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On some Good Friday´s, I carry the Cross in the procession into an empty Church sanctuary which has been stripped in honor of Jesus Christ who emptied Himself for us. Every Holy Week I am drawn back to a particularly memorable Good Friday experience. While serving at Christ the King Parish in Norfolk, Virginia; I saw the face of love reflected in an elderly married couple. Now, in a wonderful turn of history, I am back with the priest who pastored Christ the King. he is now the pastor of the Church where I am currently assigned.  recently shared this story with him during the 40 Days of lent and he remembered the couple.He only added to my reverence for the beauty of the love which I experienced.  

Years ago, I served as Deacon at the solemn "Celebration of the Lords Passion" at Christ the King parish . I had just carried the Cross into the waiting assembly chanting three times: "This is the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world," at which the assembly responded, "Come Let us worship." Now that cross, lodged in the arms of the priest, was presented for all who had gathered to come forward and venerate with a kiss or a profound bow, as is the ancient custom.

This frail couple approached. The wife could barely walk without her husband´s loving firm support. As they drew closer, I could see that the husband´s face was filled with deep wrinkles, the kind of love lines etched in the face from suffering borne with grace. His head was covered with unkempt white hair and framed with a coarse white beard. His eyes were filled with pure love for his beloved wife whom he assisted so tenderly as she came forward to venerate the Holy Cross.Her eyes were distant and her face was beautiful, wrinkled but profoundly feminine, revealing a landscape of embedded sorrows and joys, a full life now coming to its winter. As she drew closer, I could tell that the lines in her face had been accentuated by the progressive ravages of Alzheimer´s disease.

He stooped to kiss the cross and in so doing moved his steady hands and his face momentarily away from her gaze. She looked at first afraid, because his face had left her view for a brief moment. I noticed as he came back into her view that a serene look filled her eyes. She seemed to be asking her beloved a simple question with her expression "What now?" He directed her head toward the base of the Cross and in so doing he caught my eyes with his own. Instantly, I raised the Cross so that she could touch it with her lips as a sign of her surrendered love. He smiled at me and directed his beloved wife back to the pew. Words were useless. I knew, he knew, and the Lord knew.

A little later, during the third part of the solemn Good Friday service, when Holy Communion is given to the faithful for the last time before the Easter Vigil, I saw them again. I had the privilege of carrying the Body of Christ to this same couple. She was unable to come forward again because her body just wouldn´t respond to her mind. As I approached them with the consecrated hosts, he insisted that she receive first and directed my hand toward her mouth with great affection and love-- for his wife, but even more for the Eucharistic Lord whom he so obviously loved.

Then he received the Lord, present fully, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Most Holy Eucharist and with a profound smile, responded to my affirmation, "the Body of Christ" with a deep, heartfelt, "Amen." Other words were not needed. He and I both knew we had participated in the mystery we were remembering on this "Good" Friday. His face - and the face of his beloved - revealed the face of Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate.

He and I both knew the beauty of the moment - and we exchanged that knowledge - without words - in the meeting of our eyes. We both knew that this beautiful woman, whom he cherished, was already in the hands of a loving God. It would all be alright. She would one day be made entirely new. The love that he bore for her was a participation in a deeper Love -- the kind revealed on the Cross that they had both just kissed; the kind communicated to them, given to them freely in the Body of Christ they had just consumed. He and I both knew at that moment why we call it "Good" Friday.

As I walked back toward the altar, I recalled another Good Friday from my past. On that Good Friday, I had served as a Deacon at a committal and funeral service for my dear wife´s father, Malcolm. He had died from the ravages of Alzheimer´s disease. For years, in the progression of that disease, I watched Malcolm reveal the Face of the suffering Christ. It culminated in his passage through the final portal of the great mystery of life and the invitation to faith that we call death.

During those years, I also watched my beloved wife, his loving daughter, reveal the Face of Christ. Through her relationship with her Dad (whom she had the privilege of caring for through the progressive stages of Alzheimer´s disease), she became an "icon", a mirror, a living word of love to me and others whose lives she touched through her faithful witness of love.

As her father became a child and his daughter became a second mother to him, I beheld what I now call a "Mary Moment" because it captures the heart of Mary's surrender to the Lord's invitation. I watched my beloved bride truly become, in a new and profound way, a daughter of a merciful Heavenly Father and in that participation in divine Love, embrace her own earthly father with the love that is greater than any that is purely human.

In that chorus of lived out sacrificial love, she resembled Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth whose humble "Fiat" of surrendered love opened the floodgates of heaven and changed all of human history.

This graveside committal service took place, at his request, in Malcolm's childhood home of Andover, Massachusetts. At the traditional time, when Catholics remember Our Lord, Love in the flesh, hanging on Golgotha´s hill, I commended Malcolm to the Mercy revealed on the altar of the Cross. As we placed his remains in the womb of the earth until his resurrection at the last glorious day, I also experienced why it is called "Good" Friday. That too was a moment when words were useless.

As I led the ritual of prayers, I blessed the ground with holy water and spoke these words in a graveside reflection, "I now know a little more deeply why we call it 'Good' Friday - it is good because it reveals the heart of a Good God of boundless merciful love who Himself knows our pain and who, in His Son, transforms it all by redemptive love. This is not the end for our brother, father and friend Malcolm, but it is a new beginning. Life triumphs over death and love transforms pain and suffering because Jesus hung on that Cross on that Friday we call 'Good'. That tomb in Jerusalem is empty now, and one day, so too will this ground give back Malcolm, made entirely new by the power of transforming love!"

Through the encounter with the elderly couple, as well as at the graveside of my father-in-law, I experienced the beauty of truly surrendered love. Every Good Friday is an invitation to each of us to be reminded of that same love through our encounter with Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ, who stretched out his arms to embrace each one of us. On Good Friday we are reminded that death is no longer the final word. For those filled with hope of the Resurrection, it is no longer an enemy but a friend, the passageway to life eternal. We are also promised that the suffering we are invited to bear, when joined to Jesus Christ, can become a vehicle for love and mercy.

At the end of the Good Friday service at Christ the King, when I turned with the priest to face the gathered assembly, my eyes were drawn again to this beautiful couple. I will never forget their faces. I saw the face of Christ revealed. What a privilege it was for me to have experienced each of those two "Good" Fridays. What a privilege it will be to experience another one this year. Love is stronger than death. That is why we call it "Good Friday."

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.

Keywords: Good Friday, suffering, Cross, marriage, Deacon Keith Fournier



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1 - 8 of 8 Comments

  1. Roberta
    4 years ago

    That's such a beautiful story. It reminds me of what my parents are going through now. They have been married 57 years and now my mother has Alzheimers. My father never was the world's most verbally or physically affectionate husband and father. He didn't grow up hearing the words "I love you" spoken aloud in his family. But he is demonstrating his love now in the patient care he is giving my mother. My mother has often talked about offering up suffering to God. She offered it up during her five drug-free childbirths, and when she realized that she might be developing Alzheimers, she said she had a talk with God and told him that if this was his will, she would accept it. I can see my father growing holier as my mother grows frailer. Her suffering is reaping spiritual rewards she may never have envisioned.

  2. Rachel G.
    4 years ago

    What a beautiful and loving story. My heart jumps with joy when I see an elderly couple show their true love for each other. I can see the love in their beautiful faces. I will always remember the loving care my sister and her wonderful husband gave to my precious Mother, who was suffering from Diabetes. They cared for her with much love until she passed onto GOD's Wonderful Heaven, where I know GOD had a place for her. I shall forever keep sealed in my heart and soul the love and care they showed my Mother. My Mother was a person who loved GOD with all her heart and truly honored our Ten Commandments. GOD bless you and your family during this Good Friday and Easter.

  3. Xavier Magallanes
    4 years ago

    I have always said that true happiness comes from sacrifice. Even in death one can find beauty from the sacrifice from one person to the other.

    Amor Vincet Omnia (love conquers all)

  4. Michael Russell
    4 years ago

    I loved reading your most beautiful and LOVING story. It so reminded me of the care my beloved father rendered to my mother's cross of Alzheimer's. My dad went through his second major heart surgery, and through God's love and mercy, my dad was able to care for my mother until she passed onto God's WONDERFUL HEAVEN. Further words are not needed - the majesty of God's love and the shared love of my parents are forever sealed in my heart and soul.

  5. jo
    4 years ago

    Good Friday is the Eternal Gift granted by God the Father in His redemptive work.By the death of Jesus the lives of the humanity is saved from eternal damnation.Let us be good to God on this day and every other day.

  6. jo
    4 years ago

    Good Friday is the Eternal Gift granted by God the Father in His redemptive work.By the death of Jesus the lives of the humanity is saved from eternal damnation.Let us be good to God on this day and every other day.

  7. Richard Snouffer, MD
    5 years ago

    What beauty in this story!

    May I remind everyone that the Divine Mercy Novena begins today? If there's anything this country (and this world!) needs more than His Mercy, I can't imagine what it would be!

    Here's a link on the daily prayers of the novena. http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/mercy/novena.htm

    It takes less than a minute or two to go through each day. Thanks for considering saying this important devotion with me!

  8. Mary Blair
    5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your Good Friday privileged experiences. It is true stories such as these, when shared bring us together to the Unity of the Body of Christ. May God bless you and your ministry!

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