The Joy of Good Friday

A Station in Czetochowa, Poland. Photo by M.

Holy Week is the time when we hear the Passion of Christ again and again and again. The whole week is centered on it. On Palm Sunday as I was listening to and praying with the Gospel, I started to think about how much I do not really like to hear about Jesus being betrayed, arrested, condemned to death, beaten, and crucified. It is not a pleasant thing to think about for many reasons: two of them being that He is God and our Creator and that He is doing this because of us.

Yesterday I was praying the Stations of the Cross (for the first time this Lent, which is too bad for me) and I got to the second station where Jesus takes up his cross. This was the meditation that stood out to me (from St. Josemaria Escriva’s meditation The Way of the Cross):

“Is it not true that as soon as you cease to be afraid of the Cross, of what people call the cross, when you set your will to accept the Will of God, then you find happiness, and all your worries, all your sufferings, physical or moral, pass away?

Truly the Cross of Jesus is gentle and lovable. There, sorrows cease to count; there is only the joy of knowing that we are co-redeemers with Him”

I remembered again that as Christians we can have a joy in our sufferings, and as St. Paul explains we participate in our salvation. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Colossians 1:24).”

If we can rejoice in our own sufferings, then is there joy also in Christ’s suffering? He is God and has perfect suffering; and while it seems totally wrong for our God to suffer and die, this is what He chose in order to redeem us. What makes Good Friday good is the fact that His suffering brought about our redemption. The meditation on the Second Station from the St. Andrew Missal says, “A heavy cross is laid upon the bruised shoulders of Jesus. He receives it with meekness, nay, with a secret joy, for it is the instrument with which He is to redeem the world.” Imagine Jesus already so tired and hurt, bearing not just his physical ailments but also the sins of the world, having a Secret Joy in what He is doing.

On Good Friday Catholics practice fasting and abstinence to do penance for our sins, so that we can be united with the sufferings of Christ. But it is a joyful suffering and penance and one full of gratitude. Unlike the apostles, we know that Jesus has risen. The memory of his death should be solemn and sorrowful for our one sins and that God suffered, but I think that we can also share in the Secret Joy of Jesus in His carrying of The Cross.