Preaching for Good Friday
Sr. Diane Kennedy, OP

Link to USCC Website with Scripture Readings

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 31, Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9, John 18:1-19:42

In my Catholic girlhood Good Friday was a sacred day, in the morning we did our chores so that we might be free to spend noon to 3:00 in silence and prayer. Then, even the banks were closed from noon to 3:00. My Dominican life reinforced the sacredness of those three hours focused on prayer and meditation. Most of those Good Fridays I pondered the physical agony of Jesus’ passion, but because I had not yet experienced great physical pain my meditations were pretty shallow.

This year my reflections on the passion and death of Christ have assumed a different focus, assuredly because of my experience of the past nine months. Since my accident and diminished state of being I have known incredible support of friends, family, community, and colleagues. The most oft-quoted sentence in our Constitution is “at the heart of ministry is relationship.” That beautiful word has taken flesh anew for me in the loving support, prayers and presence of the amazing persons who have remembered me, encouraged me and strengthened my resolve in recovery. I have been overwhelmed by the presence and warm affection of a far-flung network of loving people.

Jesus at the last meal with his disciples laid bare his heart.  “I have not called you servants but friends.”  And in the ultimate intimacy he said “I have revealed what I have heard from my Father.” Truly, cor ad cor loquitur of profound friendship. No greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  Friends…within hours these friends will betray Him, deny Him, fall asleep during His final struggle, and flee in the face of danger.

Jesus knew total abandonment by those He had called friends, relied upon and entrusted his mission to. Jesus’ loving friendship is shown in His response to the death of Lazarus: “And Jesus wept…They said ‘see how he loved him, ’and John was the “beloved disciple.”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In Jesus’ cry from the cross I hear the anguish of a human abandoned by those he relied on, those he loved, those to whom he would entrust his mission, those he called friend.  How terrible that human agony of soul must have been within the pain of the tortured body. And yet in his final acts he is focused on relationships and concern for others:  “Son, behold your mother…Mother, behold your son.”  gesture of care at a time of profound darkness.  

This Holy Week finds us separated from one another six feet, unable to gather in worshipping community, deprived of Communion, the Bread of Life, striving for an experience of virtual community. The Good Friday liturgy has always been stark and unadorned.  But this year the Crucifixion is not just something that has happened, but the cross is something that is happening throughout the world in the pandemic crisis: fear, suffering, loss of loved ones, threat of contagion.

Isolation is the cross we bear this Good Friday. Can we offer loving support and hope to one another by phone, e-mail, a loving note? Can we be present to one another across the miles and backyard fences? Can we be faithful like Mary, the Beloved Disciple, and Mary Magdalene as we bear the cross of pandemic? Loving support, warm affection, thoughtful words offer healing and hope in the midst of loss and deprivation.
Can we be the beloved community that Jesus embraced from the cross? Can we offer gestures of care in a time of darkness?

Diane Kennedy, OP, DMin,‘55, is Dominican University’s founding Vice President for Mission and Ministry. She has served for over 50 years in the ministry of educating and animating communities in the Dominican Catholic intellectual tradition.