Good Friday today, Anno Domini 2016

Good Friday is a sad day. Or perhaps not? Jesus died so that man might live. Seen in this light, Good Friday is a celebration of the love of God—particularly as it applies to those who must themselves suffer.

We read that Jesus was scourged. This means that He was made to endure pain—He was beaten, whipped, shoved, shouted at, and threatened. And in the end He was killed. Torments of this kind are forbidden today as they violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And yet there are many people who endure suffering, even today.

Following are some examples from pastoral care:

  • Example 1 - Refugees: the number of refugees currently moving through Europe is very high. It seems as though a modern-day migration of the peoples is underway. People from many countries are pushed from place to place, ultimately landing in the nets of human traffickers, and losing all their possessions—along with their faith in humanity. Such was the story for Hakim (name changed by the editors), an 18-year-old Syrian Orthodox Christian, who only after arriving in Europe learned that it is possible to praise God in public. He found his way into a Christian church and began the arduous task of picking up where he once left off. Now he is even praying again.
  • Example 2 - Children: within any society children are always deserving of protection. They are the future. The United Nations has listed the reduction of the international child mortality rate as one of its Millennium Development Goals. While 12.7 million children under the age of five died in 1990, the number had dropped to 6.6 million by 2012. Pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria are the most common causes of death. In the so-called industrialized nations, some 0.7 percent of children die before their fifth birthday. One of these was Max (name changed by the editors), a little baby who was baptized by his Priest in the delivery room right after his birth—and died shortly thereafter. Several holes in his heart were his death sentence. His parents were happy to have spent at least those few minutes with him.
  • Example 3 – Women: women's rights are human rights. But despite all explanations, guidelines, and entreaties, women still face gender discrimination to this day. Take Efe (name changed by the editors), for example, a woman from Senegal. She was raped a total of fifteen times, and has been seriously traumatized as a result. She is only slowly managing to confront the reality of life. Being close to others frightens her, being touched triggers panic. A great deal of patience will be required in order to restore her faith in the idea that she can still have a fulfilled life.
  • Example 4 – Disabled people: people with disabilities have a tough time everywhere. Not only do they have to deal with their own challenges. Frequently they do not receive nearly enough attention. In many nations even the bare essentials are lacking: often there is no adequate health care, there are few facilities for help in daily life, and there are no suitable nursing facilities. Other countries are characterized by business rivalry, competitive pressures, and selfishness. In societies defined by consumerism, disabled people always have difficulties. Sue (name changed by the editors)—who has multiple disabilities, and who only managed to find accommodation in a people-friendly facility after years of searching on the part of her parents—is one such example. According to the medical findings, she does not have a long life-expectancy, but she should at least be able to die happy, says her mother.

Good Friday: God loves all without partiality

All of these people are loved by God. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth in order to die for them all. All would agree that this is basic Christian faith. In the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church, we read as follows on the subject: "There is no clearer proof of God's love for mankind than Jesus' sacrifice. The events of Good Friday marked a turning point in God's plan of salvation" (CNAC 12.5.3).

Good Friday teaches us that God inclines Himself to all human beings, that His love applies to all without partiality, and that nothing and no one is greater than the love of God: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8: 38-39).

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Peter Johanning
Good Friday