By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.
There is a moment for explanation, for inquiry and exploration. And there is a moment for wonder, for pausing to take the thing into yourself, to turn it over and inside out–which it will also do to you.
This is the Friday that we call “Good,” a descriptor that rarely gets its due. We know well of pleasure and of the pursuit of happiness, and know much of their absence and their opposites. But it is goodness we are unacquainted with, especially when pain is not merely the precursor or the byproduct of the good but central to the thing itself.
In orienting ourselves toward this good, we give it permission to permeate our souls and shape us in its image. By now it’s nearly a cliche, but we do indeed become what we worship. Easy enough to say of idols, I suppose, since we’re all (ostensibly) too happy to get rid of those. It is far more daunting when we look at Jesus.
But our fixation must mark us with the same goodness we eventually see there: the only way to really get inside a good is to, in a sense, bring it inside you. (The language is metaphorical, naturally, but no less real because of it.) In gazing upon this good, ruminating upon this text, we take the events and people into our minds and make them our own in a distinct way. And through that process, we are altered and conformed to the reality that we perceive.
Ours is a trivial society, whose interests shift faster on every passing day. There is little room now to cultivate the steady gaze at the Cross that is at the root of the steadiness of faith. If there ever was room, that is. We become what we worship, which means cultivating our love and affection for the one who died for us means going and doing likewise. The death of Jesus does not free us from our own: it empowers us to imitate his. But it is easier and decidedly more comfortable to turn our gaze away, as the nature of this good presupposes that we are not.
Which is why naming this Friday is a confession, not only a fact. “Only,” I say, and not “merely.” For facts are terrible moments of judgment that demand a response, but also opportunities for joy. They define the world and in our confrontation with them they invariably define us as well, establishing the limits upon us that are central to our humanity. But calling this Friday “Good” is also an acknowledgment that we have yet to plumb the depths of it, that if we have seen the fact we have not yet understood it. To do so requires walking along the same path. But if we have caught a glimpse, a fragment, and are able to say of this day that it like no other since the world began is pervaded by the presence and power of love, then that–for the moment–is enough.