A Good Friday Reflection

“Trample! Trample! It is to be trampled on by you that I am here. ”

Shūsaku Endō, Silence

What miserable days we live in right now…some more than others. It is Good Friday and the church as we understand it to be the body of Christ is truly invisible and universal these days. Unable to gather physically it must do the unusual (for it) – rely upon and trust that Christ continues where we cannot.

Of all the writers I have read none come closest to expressing how I imagine Christ to be than Shisaku Endo in his brutal and beautiful work Silence. Endo captures the essence of the hope I have no matter how hard I try to eliminate it.

I work very hard at trying to rid myself of this Christ and his church. Day and night I put effort into it but try as I might I cannot fully eradicate his presence. He remains a stubborn shadow in my life. A small voice and a silent presence.

I have stepped away from church and this, it seems to me, is best for both me and the church. I always struggled with the human attempt to mimic Christ individually and corporately as an institution, even when I was a large part of that institution. I always felt forced and misplaced.

I think I prefer the accidental ministry of the world as I flow through it. The unintentional eruption of Christ from my action and inaction and from others around me.

As someone who has come to learn that half of my heritage comes from a Jewish father I struggle too with the role Christians and the church have played historically in the intolerance and persecution of Jews and the Jewish community. Ironic given Christ as Jew. I want no part in persecution and intolerance. I want no part in bringing hate and death…and yet…I cannot remove myself from my Catholic and catholic upbringing.

“Already twenty years have passed since the persecution broke out; the black soil of Japan has been filled with the lament of so many Christians; the red blood of priests has flowed profusely; the walls of churches have fallen down; and in the face of this terrible and merciless sacrifice offered up to Him, God has remained silent.” – Shūsaku Endō, Silence

These days for myself and others it is the silence of God that rings loudly in our ears, Silence in the face of pain and suffering. I do not need to hear the words of others who speak of how our actions and words are really Christ’s in the world. This is no great comfort to the dying. It is pathetic and reeks of rationalization.

Good Friday epitomizes the silence of God.

“Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani!”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The words of Christ ring out from Golgotha and into the deep silence of God. It is Christ’s most human moment and linked to his moment in the garden when he pleads “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me.

Christ is always on the cross for me. I think this is why I prefer the Catholic crucifix to the empty cross of the Protestants. There is no empty cross. There is no ressurection…only a miserable hope for it.

We look forward to Sunday and the resurrection the way a lost hiker looks forward to being found. The way a person buried in the rubble of a collapsed building looks forward to being rescued. We hope and we hope and we hope but for all of this we are still buried.

“I did pray. I kept on Praying. But prayer did nothing to alleviate their suffering.” ― Shūsaku Endō, Silence

I have always been afraid of the dark. The empty dark keeps me awake. The emptiness of my faith is as much like the dark as anything. ThoughI cannot shake that stubborn and foolish human tendancy to hope. In this hope I reflect; I reflect on the ways I could be better. I reflect on the ways I could have been better. I reflect on the deafening silence of Christ in my life or my own mute nature that refuses to see; that refuses to hear.

We priests are in some ways a sad group of men. Born into the world to render service to mankind, there is no one more wretchedly alone than the priest who does not measure up to his task.” ― Shūsaku Endō, Silence

Good Friday is the vast dark present of the world; a world empty of Christ and God yearning for Sunday and a resurrection that keeps stretching itself ahead of us, out of reach.

“I, too, stood on the sacred image. For a moment this foot was on his face. It was on the face of the man who has been ever in my thoughts, on the face that was before me on the mountains, in my wanderings, in prison, on the best and most beautiful face that any man can ever know, on the face of him whom I have always longed to love. Even now that face is looking at me with eyes of pity from the plaque rubbed flat by many feet.

“Trample !”said those compassionate eyes. “Trample ! Your foot suffers in pain ; it must suffer like all the feet that have stepped on this plaque. But that pain alone is enough. I understand your pain and your suffering. It is for that reason that I am here.”

“Lord, I resented your silence.”

“I was not silent. I suffered beside you.”

― Shūsaku Endō, Silence

On this Good Friday as I reflect on Christ and his crucifixion I reflect too on my own resentment. I resent Christ. I resent the silence. I resent the unending pain of the world, but like a fool I continue to hope for the resurrection and I continue to whimper into the darkness because what choice do I have? His presence continues to tease me like the feeling you are being watched only to turn around and see no one.

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